Soon, Digital Advertisers Will Have Their Eyes on Your Eyes

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 24 2011 1:08 PM

Soon, Digital Advertisers Will Have Their Eyes on Your Eyes

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A woman walks past an advertising billboard for cosmetics

Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Have you ever eyed a pair of shoes on a website, only to find them haunting you at every next stop on the World Wide Web? Do you find it creepy? Then be prepared, because advertising online is about to become smarter.

The Economist reports that advertising companies like Realeyes are developing systems that would use your webcam to track your eye movements. If you see something you like and give a facial clue—say, smiling at that dress or pair of pants—the system will note it, and the product will keep appearing as you visit other sites. If you frown, though, the system will recognize the negative reaction and won’t serve the product for you again.

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Clearly, this could raise privacy concerns. But many consumers are happy to swap personal information for something of value—even if it’s just a short web video; accordingly, the Economist suggests, “One way to persuade internet users to grant access to their images would be to offer them discounts on goods or subscriptions to websites.”

Read more on the Economist.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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