Creepiest Ads on the Web
There's a scene in 'Minority Report' in which Tom Cruise's character enters a mall and the ads personalize themselves to him as he walks by. What was then only science fiction is now closer to reality, says a recent AP story, as a growing number of display screens are being equipped with small cameras and face recognition technology (the same kind used increasingly in handheld digicams), providing demographic data about who looked at the ad and for how long. The technology can already recognize gender and age and, while it's currently being used for audience research, it isn't impossible to make the leap to custom, targeted ads.
The unsettling facial recognition raises a privacy debate since the public isn't told they are being "recognized," but the companies providing the service (currently at malls in Winston-Salem, NC, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh), assert that the information is not recorded or stored and that individuals can't be recognized (just gender and age). Still, this seems a lot like the Big Brother of '1984' and prompted us to think a little more about disturbing and creepy ads and practices, which is why we've collected a bunch of other ads that are unsettling in the broadest sense of the term, which you'll find in the following pages (click on "Next" below to get started) .