Russia Has a New Way to Get Customers to Buy Stuff, and It’s Really Creepy

From a New York Times article today on technology to track shoppers’ movements in stores through their cell phones:

Synqera, a start-up in St. Petersburg, Russia, is selling software for checkout devices or computers that tailors marketing messages to a customer’s gender, age and mood, measured by facial recognition.

“If you are an angry man of 30, and it is Friday evening, it may offer you a bottle of whiskey,” said Ekaterina Savchenko, the company’s head of marketing.

Can someone say “negative externality”?

[As a preemptive answer to libertarian commenters: no, I don’t think the law should prevent this man from buying whiskey. But I do think there’s a moral case to be made for retailers not tripping over themselves to offer him some at maximum speed before he’s even asked for it. And I believe contemporary capitalists to be very bad at thinking about things like this.]

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Andrew Sabl

Andrew Sabl is a Visiting Professor in the Program on Ethics, Politics, and Economics and in Political Science at Yale University.