Have you ever wondered if you’ve got an identical twin out there somewhere? Perhaps, a long-lost brother or sister your parents neglected to tell you about? Are you worried that some bizarro version of you is ruining your good name in some far-off land? If you answered yes to either of those questions, don’t be ashamed, you’re one of many people who’ve wondered the same things. Of course, pondering your possible pairing is a lot harder than actually finding them. Thanks to the Coca-Cola company, however, it’s just become a lot easier.
As part of its marketing efforts for its Coke Zero brand, Coca-Cola recently released the Coke Zero Facial Profiler application. If you’re unfamiliar with the Coke Zero shtick, the basic premise is that two Coca-Cola executives (played by actors) are upset with Coke Zero for tasting as good as Coke, but with zero calories. A previous campaign featured the two actors on hidden camera asking real lawyers if they had a case against Coke Zero for “taste infringement.” Going along with this theme, the Coke Zero Facial Profiler app allows users to find others on Facebook who look just like them using facial recognition technology typically associated with government agencies.
Thus far, the application has acquired over 200,000 active users. Despite its popularity, however, not everyone is satisfied with their results. As detailed in an article for the Toronto Star, many users have been turned off by the app once they see who they supposedly look like.
From the article:
One reviewer named Whitney said her doppelganger was “way hotter” than she was, which “sucked” but was also “flattering.” Another reviewer named Adrianne kept getting men in her matches. One man named Michael said his match had a “blocky” and much bigger face.
Besides the fact that it’s leaving some users upset about their own appearances, perhaps an even bigger issue with the application is what it means for identity thieves. Quoting Andrew Clement, a privacy researcher at the University of Toronto, the article says:
“I’m not sure that it’s harmless. Once you’ve allowed [access], it looks like it’s too late. There’s no indication of your privacy rights, whether you can pull out if you don’t like it.”
Before the application finds a match, the user has to agree to let Coke Zero pull profile information, photos, friends’ information and “other content” to work.
Clement says the database would be useful for someone skilful in identity theft because they’d be able to find a good match.
While the facial profiler is a clever idea from a marketing standpoint, I believe that there are some tactical issues related to privacy that stop it from being a home run for Coca-Cola. However, that doesn’t mean it’s Coke’s fault if someone loses their identity online. It is up to users to determine whether they want to share their Facebook photos with the world through a public application. In this case, no matter how badly you want to find your digital duplicate, I would err on the side of caution and not download the app.