Geek Thursdays: Google Maps Gone Mad

A friend Joey Severn posted this on his Facebook wall today and I wanted to share it with my readers:

‎1. Go to Google maps.

2. Click "Get Directions".

3. Enter New York as a start.

4. Enter China as the final location.

5. Go to number 31 in the directions.

6. When you finish laughing, put this on your status



SPOILER ALERT:

For those who cannot be bothered, number 31 says 'Kayak across the Pacific Ocean'.

Number 106 says 'Jet Ski across the Pacific Ocean'.

Although my favourite was direction number 114 'Take the ramp on the left onto 外环高速/外環高速' - like an Asian Rocky Horror show.

I checked to see if 122 was 'Sweet and Sour Chicken (Cantonese Style)', but alas, it was 'Keep left at the fork to continue toward 宁合高速/寧合高速 and merge onto 宁合高速/寧合高速' - well at least there's a culinary object in there.

Above: Mariah Carey enroute to her gig in China.

Confusing CCTV

Following on from my previous blog post Big Mocha Is Watching You. If you don't want to invest in a flask, but would like to obscure the informsation obtained from CCTV about you that is used for market research, then here are some ideas:

1. Dress as the opposite sex.
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2. Make yourself look older. (or younger perhaps, although as Felicity Kendal knows, one is easier than the other)
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3. Make a daily habit of walking into a coffee shop, queuing for 5 minutes, and then leaving.
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4. Buy items that are unlikely for someone of your age and sex, and that you have absolutely no interest in.
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5. Pick up an item, hold it up to the CCTV camera, shrug questioningly, give the camera a sad and longing puppy face, and then erratically throw the item on the floor and violenty stamp on it. Then look back at the camera and smile peacefully.
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6. Wear a burka or a nun's outfit. Not only will this completely obscure your age and (theoretically) sex, but it will give the market research company a skewed idea of their customers' religious demographic.
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7. Buy what your friend wants and ask your friend to buy what you want. Then once outside and away from the CCTV's glare, swap purchases.
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8. Constantly pick things up and then put them back.

Big Mocha Is Watching You

Yesterday I was waiting in a well-known coffee house when this rustic sign caught my eye, taking pride of place atop the dazzling lean-on-me-as-much-as-you-like-bitch-we’re-rolling-in-it cake counter, it announced “CCTV footage taken in this branch is to prevent crime and is in the interests of your own safety.”
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Now usually whilst waiting patiently in a coffee queue I would be playing the addictive Critter Crunch on my iPhone or perhaps quietly reading through my Guardian app’s Favourites page (Hadley, Tanya, Imogen and Germaine – I like pieces that are either uber current, or about affairs). I wouldn’t usually put any time into thinking about other things, like, I don’t know, THE FACT THAT WE’RE BEING CONSTANTLY RECORDED. But this sign made me think a little and look-up nervously at that tiny camera hanging from the ceiling. Why was Starbucks (Oh, woops) so keen to reassure me that CCTV is to prevent crime and keep me safe. What else would it be for?
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I opened up Google, which reluctantly informed me that CCTV is also used as a major market research tool. Is this general knowledge? Or did Sugababes release a single the same day that people were told this? It’s certainly news to me so I thought I’d share my findings on The Jack of Hearts.
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CCTV helps companies to stay at the blinding and untouchable top of their industry. CCTV in a coffee shop can decipher your sex, your approximate age, what you buy, how much you spend, whether you choose to eat-in or takeaway, and rather creepily with more advanced technology – whether you’re a returning customer. It also tells companies how many staff they should employ in accordance to queue lengths at various times of day.
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If you Google ‘Is CCTV used for market research?’ (In an Orwellian future I imagine keyboards will electrocute you for typing such a deviant inquisition) you come across companies like Smart CCTV, whose website proudly announces its history of using CCTV to track consumer habits.
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In their words:
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“We are a key provider of retail market research information based on the enumeration of metadata extracted from CCTV. This is of interest to retailers who can use the information to improve retail flow and gain comparative information on consumer preferences. Video analytics can be used to track the movement of people around a retail environment and from this data provide estimates of attraction of point of sale materials and optimal flow patterns around the store.”
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In other words:
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“We’re rent-a-creeps”
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It’s a pricey procedure that costs a lot more than yelling ‘Yo sally, how many bagels did you bin last night?’, but evidently worth the effort. From how many slices of cheesecake to lay out to how many employees to have working a particular shift on a particular day in a particular branch, companies can use CCTV to build an incredible customer database that allows them to fine-tune their business, and what’s better – smaller rival shops can’t afford to play with the big kids, widening that ever-growing gap, keeping the zeros with the Neros so to speak.
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I know this is all carried out by computers, but now whenever I go to fetch my breakfast on Great Portland Street I can’t help but have this image of Sad Brad sitting in front of his grid of screens over in Daventry at Store Stalkers R Us HQ going “Well ring-a-ding-ding it’s that tall guy with the stupid satchel again, he always gets a mocha with a mozzarella croissant, one sugar, then just before he leaves he looks round at the Brazilian dude, just you watch, see, mocha, mozzarella croissant, reaches for sugar, headphones in, goes to leave, but just before he does… THERE a swift predatory gaze at the new barista boy, what did I tell you!”, at which point Sad Brad turns to his colleague Clammy Sammy for a high five, but Clammy Sammy is busy staring at his femme quotidian as she innocently readjusts her bra-strap before ordering a soya latte somewhere in Matlock Baths.
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Does anyone else feel a bit uncomfortable being a part of this voyeuristic landscape? *Insert to Christmas list*: Flask.
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Reference:
Anna Leach on the blog Shiny Shiny wrote a good little piece on this subject and the fears of new face recognition technology.