People walk through a mall in Seoul's Gangnam District in Seoul, South Korea.
People walk through a mall in Seoul's Gangnam District in Seoul, South Korea. - 
Listen To The Story

Here's an idea: Put kiosks throughout a mall armed with facial recognition cameras that figure out a shopper's gender and age. The Wall Street Journal says it's happening now at the International Finance Center Mall in Seoul, South Korea. The system then makes shopping recommendations and will soon generate customized ads.  The demographic data is being gathered, but the company involved says there's no personal information.

Chester Wisniewski, at the online security firm Sophos, "The creepy factor to it all is that the technology being used isn’t really all that different than the technology that could be used to more pinpoint who you actually are or potentially record you." He says it's not much a leap between tech that recognizes you in the mall to tech that links that with your social media profile. Which is happening now in the U.S. although -- to be very clear -- customers need to volunteer to be part of the one here.

Dave McMullen is co-founder of an ad agency in Nashville called Redpepper, which has a facial recognition system that spots regular customers and offers instant deals to them via Facebook. "Users would sign up and choose to participate whether it’s through facebook or some other application. That enters them into our database and when they enter a building or retail environment where the cameras are, the camera catches them, and then provides relevant offers relevant services based on their preferences for the location where they are."

In other words, the camera recognizes your face and sends you a message that says, "Hello Dave. You look famished. How about half off the Chili poppers at the TGI Monday's down the escalator?" McMullin says facial recognition is a powerful technology that is destined to come to a business near you. "It’s always frustrating to me when I go to rent a car and the lady behind the desk strikes the keyboard maybe a thousand times. Didn’t I just tell her who I am and how come she has to type so much? Now if she recognized me as I walked in and said 'Hello Mr. Mcmillan, we’ve got your car ready for you let me take you right to it,' how much better is that?"

As for those still unsettled by technology that identifies age and gender: I suppose there is a kind of kryptonite that would render it powerless. It's called make up.

Add the Taiwanese military to the list of people who think the new maps on Apple phones and tablets need fixing.  Authorities there are unhappy with how clearly a secret long-range radar base in Taiwan shows up when you check the location on the iPhone 5. The brass is asking Apple to lower the resolution, that is to say blur it a bit. 

No word if Apple will comply, but Eric Frost, director of the VizCenter at San Diego State University says this might only draw attention to the radar installation. "It’s just kind of silly. If you actually go in and sort of photoshop smudge it out or do something you’ve really also highlighted where it is. Like a highlight on a window, you can see the smudge very easily."

Take, for instance, supposedly super-secret Area 51.  Who even notices it, nice and sharp, on the satellite view just north of Vegas? 


In other enigmas wrapped in riddles, we have all the unconfirmed reports that invitations may go out today beckoning tech journalists to yet another mysterious Apple event. Like the iPhone just a few weeks ago, the thundering chatter this time is about -- maybe -- a miniature iPad. This buzz has the screen size down to the hundreds of an inch:  7.85 is the prediction. There's a lot of breathless so-called "reporting" online with pictures of the alleged new product, all requiring the warning that images might be Photoshop fakes.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow David Brancaccio at @DavidBrancaccio