Ernesto at TorrentFreak has a disturbing glimpse of a second order effect of the push to fight camcorder piracy in cinemas. He rattles off a litany of techniques already in use, many quite obnoxious. One vendor of current technologies, Aralia Systems, is partnering with academics at the University of West England not only to advance their tools but to potentially branch into marketing.
According to Dr. Farooq [project leader from the Machine Vision Lab at UWE] the project should make it possible to record and analyze the public’s emotions. These emotions will not be used to track down camcording pirates, but will serve as a market research tool for the movie industry and advertisers.
Ernesto aptly raises the question of consent. That is certainly a difficult line to draw as it is unclear how it differs from a market researcher attending a showing incognito and using human discretion to make the same kinds of emotional observations. I suspect that the difference lies in the scale of data that an automated solution can capture and how the lowered cost of integrating and analyzing it changes our expectations of privacy in a traditionally semi-public space. On the other hand, one does have to wonder what potential their is to game emotional recognition to humorous or even privacy preserving effect.
Despite assurances to the contrary, I am still concerned at abuses besides privacy. Emotional recognition seems to border on divining intent. Some clueless theater chain, cinema manager, or movie studio is undoubtedly going to push using this capability, just because it exists, to fight piracy. That’s the problem, regardless of Ariala’s intentions for the technology, they aren’t the ones who will shape its actual use.
Anti-Piracy Tool For Cinemas Will Recognize Emotions, TorrentFreak