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Facial Recognition and Marketing – Doing the Right Thing


Post Date: May 21, 2014
By: Thomas J. Benton

In a recent New York Times article, titled “Never Forgetting a Face” Natasha Singer addresses the burgeoning industry of biometrics — which includes facial recognition technology — and the importance of forging a path that both encourages innovation and respects consumer privacy.

The article focuses on physicist Joseph J. Atick, one of the pioneers of the technology and now an industry consultant, who today finds himself engaged in meeting that very challenge.  The article states:

“While promoting and profiting from an industry that he helped foster, he also feels compelled to caution against its unfettered proliferation.”

DMA agrees that self-regulatory guidelines and ethical best practices should apply to the marketing technologies that are used in the collection and use of consumer data.  It’s also essential for consumers, the media, and policymakers to understand that the data-driven marketing industry is not unregulated.  In fact, marketing is governed by a wealth of federal and state laws, and these legal protections continue to evolve. Further, robust self-regulatory principles by data-driven marketers have helped consumers for decades — rightly so — as marketers find ways to quickly resolve consumer concerns ahead of new laws.

According to the article, Dr. Atick acknowledges the benefits and convenience that facial recognition promises — such as freedom from reliance on ID cards and passwords — but asserts that the technology requires some special safeguards.

The good news?  DMA and its members are already way ahead of him.

Legitimate marketers have long recognized the importance of the responsible use of consumer data — and have been using that data responsibly for more than 100 years. It is that very understanding that prompted DMA to establish our Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice more than forty years ago.  As data sources and technologies continue to evolve, so do the Guidelines.  Just this week, DMA’s Ethics Policy Committee met to consider new areas where marketers might need guidance in order to “do the right thing” with emerging technologies – like facial recognition and other biometrics.  The Ethics Policy Committee is responsible for reviewing and revising the Guidelines as necessary to keep the guidelines timely, specific, and meaningful in relation to DMA’s stated broad corporate responsibility objectives.

Every new technology that comes along offers another great opportunity for DMA to remind marketers everywhere:  don’t just limit your marketing practices to doing what is legal, broaden your scope and do what is right.  This is the mandate for all DMA members – and a vital one if marketers are to ensure that the continue to hold the consumer’s trust for the industry’s future.

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