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TruMedia says its facial-recognition billboards will never record video, it won't share with cops

TruMedia says its facial-recognition billboards will never record video, it won't share with cops
Nilay Patel
Nilay Patel|June 10, 2008 6:02 PM

Those billboards with facial-recognition-based tracking systems we mentioned last week caused quite a bit of consternation amongst those of us who value our privacy (read: everyone), but it at least one of the firms involved is engaging the debate and promising that it won't share any data it record. In a letter to the New York Times and a much longer, more boring version of the same letter sent to us, TruMedia Technologies says that none of its tech will ever record or store any video, only analyze frames and increment various demographic counters. TruMedia also says that no individually-identifiable information is ever stored, and that it'll never share any video or images with any private or governmental body. There's also mention of a standards body working to address methodologies and metrics for the tech. All excellent promises, sure, but we're never going to be entirely comfortable with this stuff, even if we live in an age of ubiquitous CCTV monitoring. Full letter after the break.


"We applaud The New York Times Reporter Stephanie Clifford on her recent article about the advancement in audience measurement in the out-of-home advertising industry. She rightly states "In advertising these days, the brass ring goes to those who can measure everything."

Ms. Clifford is 100 percent correct. With the increased popularity of out-of-home advertising and the exponential growth of the digital signage industry (translating into billions of dollars), there has been no accurate measurement system in place. Television has Nielsen and radio has Arbitron, but the out-of-home industry has grown up quickly without an accurate and reliable third-party measurement solution. Our company, TruMedia Technologies, realized that need and has created a robust, scalable, turnkey audience measurement solution.

In the article, Ms. Clifford also brought up the issue of privacy and the opportunity for measurement companies to save and use individual images. This issue is a critical one for TruMedia, the marketing and research industries and the public. TruMedia Technologies has a standing commitment to the protection of privacy.

Our own privacy policy states that we do not and will NEVER engage in any video recording and that the data we collect is anonymous and will only be reported in the aggregate. No individually identifiable data is ever collected. Images from our sensors are processed and converted in real-time into counts (how many) and durations (how long). Using complex proprietary algorithms these counts are further assigned to specific demographic categories such as gender and age-group. No images are ever and will ever be stored for use, review or sharing with any private or governmental body.

To further advance these principals, we are working closely with the Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) to help develop a comprehensive set of standards that address both methodology and metrics for the out-of-home measurement industry including the buying, planning and selling community. Within those standards will come a quality control element that every vendor and advertising agency must agree to in order to use our products and services.

We further challenge the industry to adopt a standard, akin to our own that categorically prohibits the storing of images or any other personally identifying information without prior consumer consent. This will allow our industry to grow and provide responsible currency measurement of out-of-home media without compromising the important principals of privacy in our society."
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