In the age of Ubers, we’re quite used to our taxis knowing who we are. But we might not be ready for them to identify us in the way that a new Japanese startup is aiming for. Spotted recently by Google privacy engineer Rosa Golijan, Premium Taxi Vision uses facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics (age, gender, etc.) of riders and then present them with appropriate ads.
On the plus side, the concept theoretically means that, as with any kind of modern tech-driven advertising, you won’t get shown ads that aren’t intended for you. The downside is that you’ll still get bombarded with ads while being ferried around — and privacy proponents (and a whole lot of other people) most likely aren’t going to be too happy about being targeted with facial recognition technology.
When Digital Trends reached out to Premium Taxi Vision, it said that the optimized ad delivery service has not been launched yet. “We have created the functionality to determine certain characteristics from photographs of passengers for potential future optimized ad delivery,” a spokesperson said. “However, at this moment this functionality has not been activated and ad content is not being personalized.”
— Rosa Golijan (@rosa) April 20, 2019
“We do not have much we can share at the moment about the details of the technology or our future plans,” the spokesperson continued. “We can share that the technology for determining passenger characteristics is from another company, but cannot share more detail than that.”
Finally, they stressed that the handling of private and personal information is extremely important to the company and that it will abide by relevant guidelines formulated by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Users will also have the ability to turn off the screens during transit.
In all, it’s an interesting concept, and we’ll be intrigued to see how it plays out. While certainly containing elements of Black Mirror, Premium Taxi Vision is far from alone in its use of facial recognition technology. Similar tech has been used by retailers for everything from advertising to security.
Personally, we’d like to see if there was some way to pass the benefits on to customers, though. Forget about just getting customized ads, we’d be far more on board if taxis were offering free or reduced transport in exchange for watching them!