Piccadilly Circus lights facial detection system ‘incredibly intrusive’

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The revamped billboard will include “Minority Report” hidden cameras which will figure out people’s age, gender and mood.

The revamped screen will be turned on later this month
Image: The revamped screen will be turned on later this month

Facial detection technology in the new Piccadilly Circus lights is “incredibly intrusive”, according to privacy campaigners.

The revamped screen in central London will be turned on later in October in a space where 100 million people pass each month.

Cameras hidden in the screen will detect people’s faces, figuring out their age, gender and mood, and use that to tailor brand messages.

According to Ocean Outlook, the company that provides the screen’s technology, the system can detect people’s age and gender with 90% accuracy.

The system can identify the makes of vehicles and will also feature Wi-Fi to let people interact with the screen, but also potentially to track mobile devices.

The advertising screens at Piccadilly Circus, central London, after they were switched off in preparation for redevelopment.
Image: The billboard was switched off in January

Privacy campaigners say signs should be put up in Piccadilly Circus to inform the public they are being monitored.

Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch, told Sky News: “From a privacy and security point of view, we think (it) is incredibly intrusive.

“It literally is Minority Report.”

Landsec, the company which owns the screen, refused repeated requests from Sky News for an interview.

However, it said in a statement: “Although the Piccadilly Lights screen will be able to display advertising content that responds to real-time factors – such as the weather or the colour of cars – the technology is not able to recognise individual people, or display individually targeted content.

“The screen does not collect or store personal details or data.”

The Piccadilly billboards have been out of action for nine months while a new, 790-square-metre screen has been fitted.

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