If Facedeals has its way, Cheers won't be the only establishment where everyone knows your name. But rather than relying on smiling bartenders to deliver a personal touch, the Facedeals app leverages specially designed cameras working in conjunction with facial recognition tools to automatically identify you as you walk in the door -- regardless of whether or not you've ever set foot in the place before.
In a creepy-slash-ingenious move, the app taps into your Facebook profile, using your tagged pictures to map your face for its face-recognizing cameras and tapping into your Like history to offer specialized deals.
So what's the deal with Facedeals? Is Big Brother watching you or is this just the cloud-connected future of marketing? That depends on who you ask.
How Facedeals works
Let's clear the air off the bat: Facedeals was developed by Redpepper, a Nashville-based advertising agency, and isn't an official Facebook product in any way, shape or form.
In order for Facedeals to work, users need to grant the app access to their Facebook profile. That authorization powers the facial recognition and deal generation process and also gives the app permission to check you in on the social network when you enter participating establishments. Simple enough!
Creepy or clever?
Redpepper CEO Tim McMullen told CBS's San Francisco affiliate that Facedeals is simply a more frictionless way to deliver tailored deals to individuals who opt in to the program; think of it like Foursquare, only without the need to manually check in at an establishment. The privacy concerns aren't as great as people might think, McMullen argues, pointing to the ubiquitous nature of Google Street View's reach and the multitude of cameras that snap our photos as we walk down the street on a daily basis.
Others, however, think Facedeals simply feels too Orwellian. Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, told Computerworld that the app seems innocent enough, but if the system takes off, it can develop a detailed log of the places you visit as well as the deals you utilize. Services like the aforementioned Foursquare already do that, but the process isn't automatic -- and they don't keep a map of your face on file.
The big question, of course, is whether or not users are interested in trading privacy for purchasing privileges. The face-scanning technology behind Facedeals could end up causing would-be users to shy away.
In the past, Facebook itself started using facial recognition technology to automatically identify people in user-upload photos, ostensibly to streamline the tagging process. After being smothered by a barrage of negative press and congressional inquiries, the feature is currently disabled. People just get squeamish when their faces are tied into a giant, automated database, it seems. Can Facedeals overcome that hurdle? We'll just have to see. Steep discounts would certainly help, but the idea of doling out sizeable coupons could drive away business owners -- and without business owners, Facedeals doesn't have a future.
Facedeals: A worthwhile exchange?
Facedeals isn't available yet, but the project is in the final stages of testing and fundraising. Redpepper hopes to roll out the innovative deal delivery technology in San Francisco and other major cities in time for the holidays, albeit under another name.
No matter what it's called, we can't tell you what to think of Facedeals: it's up to you to decide whether or not the service is a creepy invasion of privacy or an awesomely seamless way to receive special offers when you walk into a business. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder to pay close attention to the permissions you grant to Facebook apps that you download.
Will you be signing up for Facedeals? Tell us why -- or why not -- in the comments!