Mark Cuban says he’s getting into the check-in game, and if you think existing check-in apps are intrusive, you need to be very afraid.
Mark just invested in a company “that takes video of an area and can tell you exactly how many people are in the capture area at any given time.” The data is currently used to analyse foot traffic patterns.
But Mark thinks there is potential for this company to do much more: “The next extension is to install it in places where we can add facial recognition software. So rather than someone checking in to a specific application, we would already know you are there.”
Venue owners would opt in to Mark’s fantasy check-in app by installing cameras that scan customers’ faces when they enter. The faces would be checked against Facebook’s database of profile pictures, and if a match was found, that person would be checked-in to that location.
In all likelihood, Mark is just being controversial for the sake of it. Already, numerous commenters have compared his scheme to Minority Report. But in case this is serious, here are a few reasons it doesn’t make sense:
- It requires businesses to make an up-front investment in technology that will frighten or anger many of their customers. That’s a very tough sell, despite the upside.
- Background location provides a much simpler, cheaper, and less threatening way to reduce the amount of effort involved with checking in. Loopt has already lead the way into background location, and other check-in apps will no doubt soon follow suit.
- Mark’s notion that this technology could enable check-ins without any action on the user’s part is confused. It’s true that Facebook lets anyone see the profile pictures and names of its users, but for a third-party to pull the friend connections of those users, it needs their explicit permission. Without any access to the social graph, or any ability to publish to Facebook profiles, these check-ins wouldn’t really mean anything; the user would never even know about them. But forcing the user to sign up eliminates most of the upside.
We wouldn’t rule out a terrifying distant future with omnipresent cameras running facial recognition software, but they aren’t on the horizon, and they aren’t the next step for check-ins.