Sometimes, it’s nice to walk around and think we aren’t living in a dystopian robot sci-fi movie. Sometimes, it’s nice to think the technology isn’t watching us at every turn. But it is. Even video boards at NASCAR races are scanning your face. You thought you were looking at them? This is incorrect. They are looking at you.
ESPN reports almost every race track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit has a deal with a tech company called Ingenuity Sun Media, which uses software similar to the stuff that scans audience demographics at other venues, particularly at entrances. When the deal was announced, talk was about video boards that can scan viewers’ faces to determine age range, gender, race, how long that person watched the board, and potentially their mood.
The only Cup Series track without an Ingenuity Sun Media deal is Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the New York Business Journal reports that the company also works with digital screens at malls and universities. It bought the naming rights to Phoenix International Raceway as well, making it ISM Raceway.
Here are some creepy details about the company’s boards, from ESPN:
Facial recognition software is nothing new at sports facilities and venues, especially at entrances where they can try to get a better idea of the demographics of the audience.
But the video boards? Are they logging photos of everyone that looks at them?
ISM president Jeff Hutchins said that is not the case. He said it is facial analytics software rather than facial recognition. The cameras inside the boards scan a person’s face to determine an age range and gender and that data is logged. He said no photographs of people are actually taken.
“We don’t in any way, shape or form collect autonomously or automatically people’s personal identifiable information, including images or videos from it,” Hutchins said in a phone interview last week.
The one comforting thing, at least, is that Ingenuity Sun Media president Jeff Hutchins told ESPN boards aren’t logging “personal identifiable information.” He said the boards don’t take photos or video of people watching them, and no photos or videos are transmitted from a board elsewhere. From ESPN:
ISC deferred all questions to ISM. Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said he wasn’t aware of the data being gathered.
“When the device sees a person, it boxes the body and it says, ‘There is a body here’ and it starts timing it,” Hutchins said. “When it identifies that there is a face, it begins to map the face. It’s not mapping your face as much as just pulling metadata and data points around the structure of the face.
“What’s sent back to us from the unit is just the metadata from the analytical software. All the software is self-contained inside the enclosure.”
The boards can estimate how many people are in an area over a period of time in addition to demographics, according to ESPN, which can show management where the highest viewer traffic is. Come one, come all, and the video boards will watch you well past nightfall. They’ll even do it at the mall.
Perhaps none of us should ever leave our houses again.