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Comment: Will trans customers be put at risk by Tesco ‘Minority Report’ facial recognition machines?

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  1. Interesting reflections. My concern would be more for those few males who do actually look like females, and those few females who do actually look like males. I don’t believe that gender-detecting software is likely to be so intelligent that it will be able to accurately determine their identities. I was in a supermarket recently and asked a question of a young employee, who was terribly sweet and helpful, but frankly I went away truly not knowing if the employee was male or female! So if it’s sometimes difficult for a human being to tell, how’s software going to cope? Its decisions could indeed be embarrassing.

    In the case of trans people, I would hope that the software behind Tesco’s proposed cameras will not be so intelligent that it will be able to “think” that someone who is dressed like a female and is wearing hair and cosmetics typical of females is not actually a female but a male, or vice versa!

    1. PantoHorse 5 Nov 2013, 4:09pm

      but frankly I went away truly not knowing if the employee was male or female!

      Does it matter?

      1. It doesn’t matter in this case, because no comment as to the gender was being shown on a screen visible to all and sundry!

        1. Tara Hewitt 5 Nov 2013, 7:16pm

          Lynx for men advert as you stand next to it in the queue as a trans women you might as well be labeling customer male if it is known adverts are based on gender of the customer…

      2. It didn’t matter at all with regard to the information that I was seeking. But, yes, it could matter in other circumstances. For example, there are certain things which politeness and etiquette demands you can say to males but not females, and vice versa. It would be a very dull world if we all treated each other as genderless, sexless, as being neither male or female. Homosexual men, for instance, would not be able to so easily discover other men, never mind other homosexual men!

    2. Considering it is facial recognition which works mainly on the relative distance between features it is unlikely that it will correctly identify trans* people as the correct gender. Even more than embarrassment being “outted” can go as far as endangering a trans person safety and I think this decision by Tesco is misguided and dangerous. Trans people spent huge amounts of our lives trying to blend in and life a relatively normal life, the last thing we need is to be outted by a machine every time we need to get petrol.

      1. I wonder if in the near future technology would improve enough that actually such devices can detect transgenders and feed interest-specific adverts?

  2. It’s ridiculous. So I’ll be bombarded with pressure to be thin, pretty, feminine whilst waiting to pay for petrol all because a machine has labelled me as a woman! I’m sick of it to be honest. I really feel for the trans community on this one – a truly stupid idea.

  3. BlokeToys 5 Nov 2013, 4:28pm

    I think this is being overestimated.
    All it does is use signals such as height, shoulder width, hair length and so on to determine gender, it is going to be FAR from accurate in many cases, and the ads displayed will probably be no more relevant to the person standing there than they would be if they were randomly selected.

    Clothing, weight, hair length and so on are not gender specific, so in many cases these ads will not hit their target anyway. The success rate of this has also not been discussed, and that would be a determining factor to decide if it is a good system. The fact that this is not being talked about suggests to me that the benefits of this are insignificant, and therefore it’s nothing more than an advertising opportunity for Sugar and his company.

    If this system does what it suggests, they would be preaching the numbers. They’re not, so it’s likely an insignificant improvement in sales. Tesco are idiots for spending any money on this.

  4. Bikertrans 5 Nov 2013, 5:34pm

    I’ll be keeping my helmet on at these stores them I imagine – a truly stupid idea indeed. Why can we not be left in peace while we queue. I am sick of being bombarded with adverts too.

    1. Pay at the pump :)

  5. I can not imagine these machines being at all accurate, as a white male, if I went to a petrol station and it started blasting tampon adverts at me, I’d personally find it quite funny as I am sure many other people in my shoes would find it also. If a trans person was in a similar situation to me, surely to be truly comfortable with their true gender identity they should adopt the same way of thinking, instead of being extremely concerned and distressed over what a machine says? I honestly don’t believe this machine will be at all accurate and can hardly see these machines outing anyone.

    1. NB: My guess is the software will have a threshold probability on the gender of a person, if they have a poor probability on the persons gender, my guess is they will play a gender-neutral advert, where-as if it ticks lots of boxes as being a male, then it will target them.

      1. I agree. As a gay man I would find it amusing if adverts for Nuts magazine or FHM were shown. Although to be honest I do quite like reading them anyway. But your point is valid. Xx

  6. Colin (london) 5 Nov 2013, 7:57pm

    I do not like this and will boycott Tesco if they bring this in. Well out of order and I avoid all advertising.

  7. As someone who is transgender and who works for Tesco at the petrol station, I have to say that I would be thoroughly against this, if it ever came to my store. I also know of several transgender customers, one of whom has sadly already had difficulties with others insulting her about being transgender, who – like me – would rather just be allowed to be accepted and not have some machine rather publicly announcing to anyone who can see, that they are in fact transgender.

    Also, with many billions of faces around the world, many of which might not fit with stereotypical average values of their genders, surely even for non-trans people, there is still a risk of offending customers which would be rather embarrassing for any company that rolls this out.

    1. Graeme Mulvaney 8 Nov 2013, 1:37am

      If I came to your till – how would I know if you were a man or a woman?
      Would you be more comfortable if I stopped and asked – or if I just ignored you, paid for my stuff and left?

      Your gender identity is of no concern to me – if you look like a man – and I refer to you as “dude”, why take it personally if I have no way of knowing that you see yourself as a woman?

      Maybe all transgendered people could wear different coloured hats or something – would that make you feel better?

      1. Most people in stores wear name tags. It’s a clue brighter, civilised folks rely on for addressing others. You could spare yourself much much emotional duress over pronouns by reading the tag and then speaking up.

  8. Ridiculous story. This will affect the transfer community as much as it will affect women with short hair or men with long hair. This is also going to affect alopecians, obese people and children. Big deal. I understand that transgender people would feel more self conscious than say a woman with a short hairstyle but we need to realise that we are making a mountain out of an ant hill here.I would also like to make my rather tenuous link to ask why the transgender community are “lumped” in with the guys and lesbians? As a gay man I loathe the fact that the gay community just open their arms to anyone seen, by the mainstream, as sexual deviants along with themselves. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals are all together because of sexuality. Transgendered people are not a sexuality so why has LGB now turned into LGBTQI and whatever the hell other letters want to be thrown into the mix. By the way I am not prejudiced, uneducated, old or naive. I am simply annoyed. Xx

    1. Being trans might have nothing in itself to do with sexuality, but I believe a large part of the prejudice against trans people is about sexuality. A lot of straight men are terrified that they won’t be able to tell the difference between a trans woman and a ‘real’ woman, and might somehow magically become gay if they sleep with one. It’s ridiculous, of course, but there it is. Someone who doesn’t believe there’s any such thing as trans would consider a trans woman who’s attracted to men to be a gay man.
      So, yeah, they do face prejudice based on their sexuality, because not everyone agrees on what their sexuality even is.

  9. ‘Risk’ of what ? – the disguise getting rumbled ?
    The so called trans ‘community’ can’t fool technology , nor can they hide behind the Emperors New Clothes fantasy used to parody the opposite sex by making everyone address them as a ‘she’ when they are in reality a ‘he’ , and always will be (despite medical mutilation/hormone injections ) .Maybe if these machines could speak and give a friendly ‘Have a good day Sir’ , then we all might be jolted back into reality .Would it be right for instance to go along with the fantasy of an anorexic and agree with them that they are fat , when they are skin and bone ? No one is born in the ‘wrong’ body – this thought is a disorder just like anorexia .Being either male or female is intrinsic and can’t be altered anymore than saying that anything can equal water H2 O and be called water .Celebrate who you are, not what you are deluded to think you are .

    1. Sinead Harkin 6 Nov 2013, 7:25am

      Get a life bigot and let others live theirs.Transexual and proud of it

    2. friday jones 6 Nov 2013, 8:06am

      Die Cis Scum.

    3. What breath-taking ignorance.! I think Ray has a problem when pejorative words like ‘disguise, medical mutilation, fantasy, deluded’ are used as well as comparing trans people with anorexia. Ray has a serious problem with intelligence; the lack it, I should say.

    4. Your opinion Ray, but keep it to yourself mate, because it’s just plain wrong

    5. You sir are an idiot as well as an a@@hole.

  10. LeatherNun 7 Nov 2013, 2:04pm

    I’m not convinced that this system is going to be used in the way implied by this or other articles. This statement is from the FAQs about the OptimEyes technology that Amscreen use in this system:

    ‘the Optimeyes platform provides some broad insights to allow content to be optimised for the range of viewers that might visit that specific store during the course of a typical day, week or month.’

    So, it probably won’t flash up a gender tuned ad. specifically for you, and indeed this makes sense; after all, you are not usually in a petrol station for long enough for an ad. to play fully and if you are you are likely to be part of a queue or a crowd of other shoppers

    The system does not store your image data and makes no attempt to recognise you as an individual.

  11. Graeme Mulvaney 8 Nov 2013, 1:29am

    Gender has a genetic basis – you either have a Y chromosome or you don’t.
    Gender identity and preference has a psychological dimension and is personal.
    There is also a broader cultural and social aspect to gender behaviour, roles and stereotypes.

    These screens look for gender and age cues based on large scale samples from across the population, they aren’t judging you, all they’re doing is pattern matching – this is a harmless piece of fluff – the facial recognition systems employed by facebook, Google and the police are far more insidious, why not criticise them first.

    Besides, Amscreen is part of the Amstrad family – the company that brought you the emailer phone – I’d be amazed if it can actually tell the difference between a human face and the Pringles guy.

    1. James Campbell 12 Nov 2013, 12:49am

      “Gender has a genetic basis – you either have a Y chromosome or you don’t.”

      There are women whose karyotype is XY and there are men who are XX or XXY etc. Gender identity is not confined to chromosomes, but resides in the anatomy of the brain, not just in an individual’s psychological profile.

    2. Facebook cannot tell real photographs of human faces from paintings or sculptures! I once uploaded a picture taken at an art gallery and FB asked me to tag the artwork!

  12. Trans people have to go through a lot; they have to be tough in every day life just to be what they are.
    I honestly believe that the majority of them will have the balls to simply laugh this gimmick off.
    They’ve been trying a similar thing in a famous department store in Barcelona; as you walk buy a vision of you wearing clothes from the shop appears in the window.
    It made me look like stick insect with a 24 inch waist wearing those jeans that start half way down your backside.
    It couldn’t have been more wrong or misjudged what I would wear worse :)
    Laugh it off!

  13. Speaking as a free-range transvestite, who occasionally fills up the car at Tesco en-femme: I’m already prepared for the possibility that the petrol station attendant and other customers will clock me as a bloke in a dress (it’s a fair certainty once I open my mouth) so I couldn’t care less what the advertising computer thinks. This is going to wrongly identify cisgender people all of the time – masculine looking women, feminine looking men and it won’t know what to do with the androgynous ones. The embarrassment that it causes will spell the demise of this system, since properly insulted customers won’t be returning. This isn’t a trans issue at all, but it is a foolhardy business move for Tesco.

  14. I suppose it all comes down to whether it is going to bother you personally or not, if I’m paying at the pump at Tesco’s Petrol station it won’t bother me, if I’m standing in a queue to pay then I can listen and look at it or just choose to blank it. My world is not going to come crashing down around me if people I’m misgendered in a advert… I suppose the worse case scenario is someone is going to attack me for being outed by an advert…. hmmmm I can’t really see that one happening…

  15. This kind of software does more than just serve to stereotype male and female appearances. It plays on stereotypes in marketing to males and females. Some women may want things typically marketed to men, and vice versa. I’m a geek girl, I like to see computer and electronics ads, not personal hygiene products. I can sort my panty-liner preferences for myself, thank you very much. I’m pretty sure I know when I need them without advertisements.

  16. No one is suggesting that facial recognition machine is fool-proof. There will always be margins of error, especially with ethnic minorities. Neither can it accurately guess one’s age. All what this contraption seeks to do is to display adverts that *might* be of customer’s interest, based on — let’s be honest — stereotypical assumptions backed by marketing statistics. For instance, it won’t be able to distinguish between gay and straight customers of same sex and age group, even though it is known that gay consumer interests differ from those of straight consumers. The facial recognition therefore will not “out” anyone, nor will be used by anyone to discriminate against anybody. The allegations by the so-called transgender lobby is outrageous and exaggerated.

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