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Tesco rolls out face scanners to deliver targeted ads

A screengrab from a video explaining Amscreen's face-tracking technology. U.K.-based retailer Tesco PLC has signed a deal with Amscreen that will put face scanners at the gas station's checkout lines.

Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

Marketers have their eyes on you.

That is the growing reality in a digital age where companies are realizing there is real financial value in knowing as much about their customers as possible.

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Now, giant U.K.-based retailer Tesco PLC is rolling out a new kind of surveillance in its stores to expand just that kind of knowledge. The company has signed a deal to put face scanners in its gas stations to better target advertising to customers while they wait in line.

The deal with the company Amscreen, which makes digital signs, will see Tesco install screens at its checkouts, which have a camera inside that can scan customers' faces to estimate their age and gender.

The screen will then use that information to show the ad most relevant to that person.

The system, called "OptimEyes," also uses information such as the time of day, and what each customer is buying.

Tesco plans to roll out the screens in roughly 450 locations.

Amscreen CEO Simon Sugar told the U.K. trade publication The Grocer that the company hopes to expand the program to more supermarkets.

"Yes, it's like something out of Minority Report," he told The Grocer, "but this could change the face of British retail."

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A Tesco spokesperson told the BBC that OptimEyes will not keep any of the images or use facial recognition technology to personally identify the people whose faces are scanned.

"This is not new technology," the spokesperson told the public broadcaster.

Amscreen declined requests for an interview.

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