This year’s Consumer Electronics Show has displayed some very interesting new developments in biometrics technology, and has also highlighted some major issues. One important issue that we’ve seen develop is the friction between the amazing perceptive capabilities of biometrics, and the technology’s integration into everyday life and consumer privacy. We can know much more information much more quickly now – but how much do we want to know?
That tension was highlighted particularly well in A&D Medical’s announcement of the results of its Connected Health Study, conducted on the company’s behalf by Harris Poll. The study found that a 56 percent majority of American respondents were interested in having their health stats analyzed continuously by biometric devices and shared with medical professionals – no surprise there, given the enthusiasm over fitness-tracking devices and wearables – but a vast majority of the respondents were not comfortable with having sexual and fertility data monitored.
For companies providing biometric health monitoring for remote care purposes – like A&D Medical – that kind of information is key, as it allows them to tailor their products to users’ tastes and preferences. But then there are cases where companies don’t necessarily have a vested interest in finding out what consumers are and are not comfortable sharing – they just want to know as much as they can about their targets. That will almost certainly be the case with retailers who choose to employ NEC’s new biometric marketing technology, which will scan shoppers for demographic data and use that to tailor in-store advertising to those individuals.
The stakes are obviously not very high in that particular case, but it is a small part of an ongoing tension between the powerful capabilities of biometric technology and the privacy rights of individuals – a tension that will surely continue to arise between now and next year’s CES.