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  (Source: Dreamworks)

One of the scanning billboards springs into action.  (Source: AFP)
Is technology another great step in advertising or an outrageous violation of privacy?

In Tokyo Big Brother is really watching you -- but Big Brother is actually big business.  Businesses on the island nation are reportedly rolling out advertising billboards with cameras that scan nearby viewers' age and sex.  Japanese firms believe they can use these metrics, much like internet advertising, to better target customers.

The project, the Digital Signage Promotion Project, was launched by 11 railroad companies last month.  Twenty-seven of the vigilant billboards are deployed in subway commuter stations around Tokyo.

A spokeperson describes, "The camera can distinguish a person's sex and approximate age, even if the person only walks by in front of the display, at least if he or she looks at the screen for a second."

The station can then serve up ads "which meet the interest of people who use the station at a certain time."

The invention mirrors the smart billboards found in the movie "Minority Report" directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise.  In that film Cruise's character is recognized by advertising billboards which say his name aloud, endangering him when he's on the run form the law.

Currently the Japanese experiment does not recognize individuals -- only basic demographic data.  And the companies involve promise that video of their passing customers won't be stored.

Japan is often a nation who takes an edgy stance on privacy.  A Japanese firm recently created a stir when it released a "caring", "mothering" system to help businesses snoop on their employees cell phones.

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RE: Doubt it...
By BZDTemp on 7/16/2010 9:35:01 AM , Rating: 4
I think calling it winning is a stretch but I do agree that relevant ads will be less annoying than random ones.

To me winning is what the AdBlock+ and FlashBlock plug-ins brings to me as a Firefox user. Those and the BugMeNot plug-in makes for the best possible browser experience. No ads fill the screen, no bandwidth is use to download the ads and no need to sign-up to read newspaper articles and the like.

PS. Thank you to all those not blocking ads which sort of pay for my surfing :-)

RE: Doubt it...
By ImSpartacus on 7/16/2010 10:02:08 AM , Rating: 2
See that's it. I use AB+ on FF and Chrome, but in the ideal world, I wouldn't mind glancing over a relevant ad. If I an genuinely interested in the ad, there's no problem. I would like to support websites that I enjoy.

But like you said, bandwidth is a problem. I would not tolerate a bunch of Flash ads on my laptop, even if I found them appropriate. That's a problem.

I think if ads were more relevant to the user, they wouldn't have to use heavy flash. If I am truly interested in a subject, they could simply use a linked image.

One can dream, eh?

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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