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back to article Big Beardie is watching you: Lord Sugar gets into facial recognition

Lord Alan Sugar is building a huge outdoor network of advert-slinging, face-detecting cameras. When complete, the bearded tycoon's creepy surveillance technology will monitor up to 50 million Europeans and then beam tailored ads at them. The Apprentice star's company Amscreen runs a huge digital advertising network of 6,000 …

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Silver badge
Mushroom

I predict...

A huge rise in wrap around totally opaque sunglasses and large floppy hats that will be worn all year round.

Sorry Mr Sugar, we don't want this sort of intrusion into our personal space.

Where's the 'Two Fingers' icon when you need it?

What I'd like to do to AMS 1 if you roll this out (joking)-->

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Unhappy

Re: I predict...

'A huge rise in wrap around totally opaque sunglasses and large floppy hats that will be worn all year round.'

I honest wish people would do this en masse, but i think people are either too stupid or don't care. :(

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Silver badge

Re: I predict...

Even better, wear a pair of these: http://craphound.com/images/no-eye-contact-glasses-4250-1239907127-17.jpg

Then the facial recognition will always flag you as uninterested, no matter how compelling the ad.

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Silver badge

Re: I predict...

How about AMS masks, just to screw the stats?

Come to think of it, we're long overdue for a 'Nosey Bastards' icon here - how about Mr Sugar's face?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I predict...

The really depressing thing about that is that it is taken as writ that it's us who have to change our behaviour, not the wankers who visit this crap on us.

If the 'regulators' won't limit the sheer volume of ads, Parliament should at least even the score by exempting the destruction of advertising hoardings, screens, marketing company offices etc from criminal damage charges. At least we could have a real democratic 'conversation' about how we feel about the wholesale destruction of public and private space.

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Anonymous Coward

Absolutely NO WAY.

I rather predict a total flurry of Data Subject Access Requests asking for every iota of data the company holds on people. If enough people do it, that becomes in itself a DDoS attack, but legally so.

Beardie (did Branson lose that title when he posed as a stewardess?) works with money, so he ought to know that £10 is not going to cover the costs of fulfilling a DSAR because it was meant to cover incidental overheads.

In addition, if Beardie has the nerve to put such a sign near a road and makes it work off license plates (which is a logical next step as the DLVA is happy to sell you out for money), he can be taken to the cleaners by insurance companies for distracting a driver. After all, they show ads you are likely to be interested in, thus wilfully distracting you from driving. Oh, BTW, if you buy expensive stuff and the ads show that to you in public, they have just flagged you as a candidate for a mugging. So, if you get stabbed, sue him from your hospital bed or let your family do it after your funeral. Oh, btw, identifying you also means tracking you, but without your permission. I think that could be considered stalking, and being able to opt out is no solution unless that genuinely means your details are fully (provably) erased instead of just marked as DNH (Do Not Harass). Anyway, that's a starting collection of nuts for that particular gearbox, I hope I have inspired others to come up with more.

Lord Sugar, you are an ass, and I hope you get sued into the ground for even considering this idea.

This comment was posted as opinion, identifies possible attack routes merely as an intellectual exercise rather than as an invitation to mischief that appears to be entirely legal (IANAL, consult your own) although the author admits that such practical tests would be massively amusing, and the author's opinion of Lord Sugar is hereby solidly confirmed and is available in capital letters.

Frankly, this one should be considered for the Big Brother Award for companies.

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Re: I predict...

hmm, not a bad idea .

Even if they managed to recognise my face , I also predict that no amount of advertising would ever get me to buy :-

a) an Amstrad Hifi

b) an Amstrad Phone

c) an Amstrad PC

in fact anything by Amstrad , coz it was (and probably still is) all s***.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Data Subject Access Requests as DDoS

Definitely an idea whose time is ripe, perhaps overdue.

A few years ago one of the World Service arts programmes ran a piece on a film maker who had used a similar method. She got her 'actors' to do their bit in front of CCTV, then put in requests for the footage to varying degrees of outrage, refusal etc from the companies in question. Most didn't realise that providing the footage wasn't optional. She got the lot in the end, delivered on a pile of CDs, but the film itself obviously wasn't the point. Problem was I was busy and half listening, and promptly forgot the who, where etc (I think it might have been in Sweden) by the time I wanted to find out more, and endless searches since haven't turned it up.

I'm astonished really that no one has organised a 'flash mob' type movement along these lines as yet, since it ticks all the right boxes; it exacts a bit of economic punishment on the usually untouchable in a death of a thousand cuts way; it makes a sharp political point in a publicity friendly way; it's legal and requests should have the (doubtless unwilling) backing of the ICO. But most importantly it sounds bloody satisfying.

All of which unfortunately means the law would change about 3 minutes after the first data flashmob.

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Silver badge

Re: I predict...

"Sorry Mr Sugar, we don't want this sort of intrusion into our personal space."

The way I read the article, it looks like the system is just picking out facial metrics and making a best guess on age, gender and, where it identifies multiple faces, working out the demographic distribution so a group of teens at a bus stop are unlikely to see Saga adverts (they'll be shown on the screens in the Post Office queues)

I very much doubt the systems will be storing the images or even the captured metrics. Most likely it will interrogated" over night via a 3G dongle and send back how many of each age/gender it identified and when. The advertiser get an inkling of the people seeing the ads and the "host", eg shops, garage, whatever, get stats on the types of customers they get and when.

The down side, is that full facial recognition is a possible (probable) next step but at this early stage I suspect the hardware powering the device isn't up to the job as it will be just powerful enough to the job expected of it, ie built to a target cost.

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Silver badge
Devil

Re: Beardie (did Branson lose that title when he posed as a stewardess?)

Keep Beardie for Branson.

May I propose Prune-Faced Spiv for Sugar?

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Go

Re: I predict...

I'll be buying lots more insulating tape in the near future... black for preference, because black goes with anything and is very slimming. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm quietly confident that blocking the lens of a camera, provided it's not an 'official' (police/speed/CCTV etc.) one with something easily removable and which does no harm to said lens, isn't illegal. It would also create a need for someone to go and remove it... such people would need employment, a vehicle, work clothes, hi vis etc. etc. all of which creates demand and therefore more employment. A boost to the economy all round.

Break out the electrical tape people - it's a win win win situation (third win because it would tick off Beardy Al a treat)

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Silver badge

Orwellians unite

Maybe it's time for a George Orwell Society dedicated to the prevention of the development of a BB world although the world is arguably already there.

Are there any relevant privacy laws that could be used against this kind of advertising?

Our governments snoop on us enough and undoubtedly will be accessing the content of Amscreen avidly.

As a stopgap measure I think the suggestion that these ad screens would make excellent canvases for Graffitiists should be propagated with the lens being targeted first.

Alternatively for those with a more active approach a handheld emp projector like some of these https://www.google.es/search?q=diy+emp+gun&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a might be amusing.

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Big Brother

Re: Orwellians unite

I wonder how the cameras would be affected by laser pointers.

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Bronze badge

Why not do it the lo-tech Italian way?

Just make sure there is a beautiful, scantily dressed - or, better yet, fully undressed - woman in every ad, whether it is for toothpaste or lawnmowers or anything else. Then the brand owner can be fairly sure that more than 50% of the audience is looking at the ad, without any need for intrusive sophisticated technology. Gorgeous, slightly unshaven, possibly shirtless men might work better for some brands - it should not be difficult to figure out in advance.

Eye tracking cameras is so North-European... An overkill, surely...

One might need cameras to reliably count traffic accidents if something like Wonderbra's "Hello, boys" ad is put on a really huge screen...

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My face; my copyright

You want to take pics of me for commercial purposes? £500 per picture or frame.

That's per picture or frame. I bet you are running video feeds at, say, 10-25 frames per second

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Anonymous Coward

Oy, take your creepy barrow somewhere else ...

cockney barrow boy.

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Worth watching the video just to see how uncomfortable Simon Sugar is in front of a camera.

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Bronze badge

> Some 30 million Brits see the screens every week, we're told.

We might see them, but that doesn't mean we actually look at them, nor that we remember what's on them or that they affect our buying habits. Surely the best (and cheapest and easiest to measure) marker is whether sales go up in an area where a campaign is run?

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Silver badge

"nor that we remember what's on them or that they affect our buying habits"

You just hit the nail on the head there. They don't care if you consciously remember the ad. What matters is that you did see it. That memory is in your sub-conscious and very likely will affect your buying habits, no matter how hard you protest that advert don't affect you.

It might be unpalatable, but it's just how the human mind works.

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Know your place

"I am not a number..." - no you're a consumer; and by $_.Deity we will make you consume!

The truly worrying thing is that so few consumers will be that concerned about this, that they will probably get away with putting it in all over the place.

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Silver badge
Childcatcher

Re: Know your place

I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.

Certainly sir. VISA or Mastercard? We no longer take cash, govnmt regulations, don't you know. This map of the Village is on the house, btw. Be seeing you.

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Minority Report

"Hello Mr. Yakamoto and welcome back to the GAP!"

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Silver badge
Joke

If you wear a surallenlordsugertits face mask does the screen herald you as king?

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Silver badge
Coat

I really don't want tailored ads targeting me

Judging by my Google search history, I'm going to be seeing porn everywhere I go....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I really don't want tailored ads targeting me

I too will have to alter my surfing habits if adds from websites I visit are going to start following me around in public... not to mention the gf might be a bit concerned about the kind of target demographic* the add slingers seem to think I am :)

*in my case a young man without a russian mailorder bride.. they are obviously advertising them to me as they know that I don't have one :P

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Big Brother

Re: I really don't want tailored ads targeting me

More likely it will show an advert for something you just purchased, or the same shop you just walked out of, just like google does!

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Silver badge

not really ID

This doesn't sound as bad as people are making out - there seems to be no intention to identify a named individual, although there is always the possiblity that the security people will want access but it all sounds stand-alone to me.

That said, since I just walk past billboards 95% of the time, and the other 5% of the time I am staring in complete bewilderment as thought at an alien culture, I do think they have some software challenges ahead.

Why don't we all wear Bill Oddie masks like Clarkson driving across america?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: not really ID

there seems to be no intention to identify a named individual, although there is always the possiblity that the security people will want access but it all sounds stand-alone to me.

It is trivial to assign a name to a face - just look at how quick Google Picasa and FB are with flagging you. This is basically stalking, and I hope the Office of the Information Commissioner fines the crap out of this outfit as soon as they start building up profiles and selling data.

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Anonymous Coward

Amscreen ad slogan

"Making the world less pleasant, one square foot at a time" would seem appropriate, if understated. The only bright point about this is that it brings the advertising industry equivalent of Bastille Day quite a bit closer.

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Silver badge

Optional

Hey, Barrow-boy, if you want to be an invasive creep, here's another suggestion for you:

Add number plate recognition technology to it as well - you can get that off those nice people that run car parks - and if you see us looking at your adverts, you can then send additional material to our home addresses.

Please be sure to include a postage-paid return envelope so that I can send off for further information your advertisers a sample of my excrement.

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AMSAdvert. Dirt cheap, breaks after 17 seconds and you get the middle fingered salute when you complain about it.

This technology is ridiculous.

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Now, Faecial recognition is another thing entirely.

Can I contribute?

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Big Brother

Next things after flash crowds

Flash "Being John Malkovitch" sessions by Amscreen installations.

Choose a face, print out many copies, pick a time. Then when the daft stats come in - "it seems the queen likes looking at condom adverts" - Amscreen loses what little credibility it had and advertisers leave in droves.

Well, I can can dream.

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Silver badge

Is that being filmed

...in a padded cell?

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It's alright folks....

...don't panic; it's from what was once Amstrad. Can anyone name *any* tech from this first rate twat that has *ever* worked or been adopted broadly by the market?

It's never going to work properly.

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Joke

Re: It's alright folks....

Check this out its totally badass!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S08Mh4Z6sFw

If he's guna shove adverts down my face I'm okay with it as long as its THIS advert!

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Re: It's alright folks....

"...don't panic; it's from what was once Amstrad. Can anyone name *any* tech from this first rate twat that has *ever* worked or been adopted broadly by the market?" Bernard M. Orwell

Sky boxes. Sky + boxes. Sky + HD boxes.....

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Re: It's alright folks....

Do you mean the one's invented by Altec UEC and PACE? Amstrad did indeed operate as a distributor for those in the UK (model 1 and 2 only, if I remember rightly), but I'm pretty certain they didn't invent them and are not the sole distributor for them. In fact, Sky got so many complaints about the Amstrad version of the Sky+ boxes that they bought Amstrad out in 2007 in order to address the issues, after only ONE year of doing business with him

There's no doubt that Mr. Sugars' various companies have released many, many products, but invented nothing of significance and never had a successful brand of their own. This is yet another of his cynical, nasty, mealy-minded plans to squeeze short term cash out of "punters".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amstrad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Sugar

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Given that "Amstrad" is "Alan Michael Sugar Trading", "Amscreen" must be "Alan Michael Sugar Creen" (or at least a word that starts with creen). I don't know what a creen is!

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Silver badge

It's the Shudder creen!

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ifm

How is it that 'brands' have a right to know anything about me when I'm making use of the public highway? This is appalling.

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Anonymous Coward

It's a shame

It's a shame that nobody has managed to miniaturize lasers to the point where a one-watt laser would be smaller than a building. Imagine if you could carry a one watt laser around - what it could do to the camera on an ad like this.

Oh, wait: they have.

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Bronze badge
Happy

Baluddy useless

He will make it so cheap that the screens never really work peropperly.

Apparently all the staff in his business "empire" have to use his crappy executive telephones.

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Re: Baluddy useless

Well somebody has to......

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Anonymous Coward

Really?

"Brands deserve to know not just an estimation of how many eyeballs are viewing their adverts, but who they are too"

Do marketing types really believe this? They deserve to know who looks at an avert? Really?

Of course, there is another option, there are several companies who I'm more than happy to have my details and send me shiny catalogues to read whilst on the porcelain throne. How did they get this information? By providing good products that I like, and entertaining marketing bumf. Curiously none of these companies are the sort that would be using this sort of system though.

Provide an excellent product people want at a reasonable price, back it up with good customer service and funnily enough people will do your advertising for you...

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Zap

Enough is Enough

So there may be a sign warning of CCTV usage but what CHOICE do I have to avoid it when I HAVE to pay for petrol or visit hospital?

I think it is time for a letter to get the Information Commissioner involved in this, please tweet the following

@ICOnews Christopher Graham please investigate and shut down massive breach of privacy by Lord Sugar owned Amscreen http://bit.ly/AMSCREEN please RT

and encourage your friends to retweet, also encourage your friends on Facebook to view this page.

Please call the ICO and ask them to quickly mount an investigation their number is Tel: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

We can only prevent this by acting together, thank to the Register for bring this to my attention.

Please email the complaint below to casework@ico.org.uk

Christopher Graham

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to complain about the excessive use of my personal data, by the AMSCREEN platform that has already been installed in over 6000 UK locations including at Doctors Surgeries. You can find out more here http://bitly.com/AMSCREEN please watch the video.

This data is taken without my permission and I can't avoid its use without breaking the law (e.g. refusing to pay for petrol) or avoiding going to my GP. Where these systems are installed in shopping Malls I cannot wear a hood as these are banned and I should not have to.

The data collected includes physical locations and is provided to third parties in real time thus preventing any meaningful objection by myself regarding the use of my data.

The storage of this data means that it can at a later date be used to completely obliterate any modicum of privacy, for example it could track my route, identify my doctor and so on.

I do not see a way that this system could be made to comply with EU & UK Privacy rights and so I am asking you to rapidly investigate and shut this company down as its whole modus operandi is a breach of data protection.

Yours faithfully

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Anonymous Coward

Penpad

If the facial recognition is as bad as the handwriting recognition on the Amstrad Penpad, nobody has anything to worry about.

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