GERMANY - Personalized Ads in the Real World

Arno Froese

Imagine going grocery shopping and while in the check-out line, seeing an ad that seems oddly like it’s tailored just for you. What sounds like vaguely scary science fiction is becoming reality with a pilot project currently run in a chain of German supermarkets and in some post office branches.

If you’ve ever shopped online, you’re familiar with personalized ads. You purchase a pacifier for a friend’s baby shower and for the next few days (at least), you’ll see ads on your Facebook or Gmail account for baby blankets, diapers, teething rings, onesies… You get the picture. Since you’re not the one having the baby, this gets old really quickly.

The new technology is tested in 40 “Real” supermarkets and in 100 branches of Deutsche Post, the German postal service. There’s a camera and a screen set up by the check-out. A visual sensor scans the faces of waiting customers who have looked directly at the camera and detects whether they’re male or female and how old they are.

The system isn’t perfect, of course.

“If a person looks significantly younger than they really are, the technology is going to categorize them as younger as well,” Rainer Ernzer, press spokesman for Deutsche Post, said in an email to DW.

Data protection experts are still not happy with the system and the way it’s set up.

“We are a bit alarmed by this process,” Sebastian Himstedt, spokesman for the German Foundation for Data Protection, told DW. “Customers haven’t explicitly consented to be scanned like this and they aren’t clearly alerted to what is going on.”

“People who have seen a video surveillance sign don’t infer that their faces are being scanned,” a data protection activist who goes by padeluun and is a founding member of data protection organization Digital Courage told DW. “They might grudgingly accept that video surveillance is a part of burglary prevention. But this project spies on us and uses the data for consumerist purposes.”

Echion CEO Kimmich stresses that he and his company highly value data protection. That’s why they are meeting with representatives of Bavaria’s data protection office to explain why the pilot project isn’t violating any privacy standards in their eyes.

“We want to actively support the data protection process,” Kimmich said. “Nobody is being spied on, nobody is being filmed, nobody is being recorded.”, 6 June 2017

Arno's commentary

This report shows again that merchandise is king. Using technology to target certain groups leads to “sell, sell, sell.” What we are experiencing in our days is unprecedented in human history. While we are at ease and free to go where we want, there are some new absolutes being established. One can no longer book a flight without possessing a credit card. Traveling abroad requires a government-issued biometric passport. Pictures and signatures are no longer the final authority; today, it’s the computer. After the customs or immigration officer examines your passport, comparing the picture with the person, he then scans the passport, and only when the computer confirms your identity, you may proceed.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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