Biometric Tracking – Do your eyes give you away (to set the price you pay)

This research aimed to understand how consumers interact with a user interface that changes the price of retail goods based on unconscious physical behaviours (or biometric tracking). This topic is built on the notion of surveillance capitalism, where consumer movements are transformed into data insights used to further exploit and nudge consumers in the future.

Why is this important?

Imagine not needing a bank card, but instead, just using your face to withdrawal money, open a car vehicle, or have a price customized for you. The increase in gathering of biometric data insights means that consumers actions are being monitored, monetized and used to determine how best to extract further value (called surveillance capitalism). Countries like Uganda and Scotland have begun questioning the ethics of such surveillance, however, countries like Nigeria have combine passports with facial and fingerprint tracking for access to the national bank, and retail loyalty programs.

What did we do?

Across 3 studies participants were surveyed to understand how they engaged and interacted with biometric surveillance which tracked their eye movements, while demonstrating a pricing technique that changed the price in response to subconscious facial expressions. In real time the price changed based on how much their facial expressions demonstrated that the participant was engaged in the product. An American sample of over 800 participants was collected.

What did we find out?

Consumers will give up their own biometric data for a perceived benefit, however, protected the privacy of others until the benefits were quite significant.

Self-efficacy was examined to test its impacts on these relationships. There is a relationship present between self-efficacy and perceived benefits, which impacts the consumer’s willingness to purchase. Global self-efficacy more than technology based self-efficacy impacted a consumer’s willingness to purchase. However, while self-efficacy as a variable proves to be important, the perceived benefit in this biometric setup proves to be more important and guided the consumers actions.

This study highlights how perceived privacy invasion, perceived privacy risk, and perceived biometric privacy concerns influences consumers’ willingness to purchase. Specifically, when people are told specific situations where their biometrics are being tracked it influences their perceptions of trust and willingness to use biometric tracking, as well as their perceptions of privacy concern and privacy invasion.

Further, this research shows how such a biometric tracking system could nudge consumers into giving up their personal information, potentially to the consumer or another’s detriment, and lastly, how the actions of one individual allowing their biometric identify to be tracked influences the privacy of other’s. This results in the development of the new term, Individuals’ Collective Privacy.

This raises military and government sociological implications: how smart cities operate; facial tracking in everyday context; public versus private spaces’ usage of tracking data such as in school classrooms, data trusts and their impact going forward; security measures based on facial cues; security features based on facial or other biometric movements; the regulations surrounding offshoring and storage of such information by the individual and society as a whole.

For more information, contact: Ryan Payne 

Chief Investigators

Other Team Members