Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Is Your Facebook Photo Worth More Than a Free Ice Cream?

Sure, you might say online privacy is important to you. But how important?

More important than a free ice cream?

Here’s a real world test: A “smile-activated” vending machine, which gives users a free treat in exchange for their photo, which it posts to Facebook.

Sapient designed the machine for Unilever’s Wall’s ice cream brand (big in the U.K., apparently), and is demoing it at the Cannes ad schmoozefest this week. This video is pretty self-explanatory, but if you want more you can check out this link, too:

And here are some of the 148 examples of photo-for-ice cream traders on Facebook:

Important caveats:

  • Sapient/Unilever stresses that the ice cream-getters give their permission to upload the photos to Facebook. We’ll take them at their word on this.
  • The Facebook photos don’t seem to tag or ID the user in any way. So your ice cream-getting may not be anonymous, but it may not be easy to track down unless you boast about it.
  • Everyone using the machine this week is at an advertising conference. So they’re unlikely to complain about anything a big marketer wants to do, anyway.

Also, I’ve never had Wall’s. Maybe it’s really awesome ice cream!

But from what I can tell, it looks more or less like the stuff you get from an ice cream truck. So here’s the question: If the ice cream truck guy offered you a free fudgesicle in exchange for a Polaroid, would you go for that?

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik