Facebook Could Face More Privacy Backlash With Augmented Reality QR Codes

Microsoft has publicly released a tagging system that will allow users to leave a breadcrumb trail for the firm, its advertisers and just about anyone else to follow. Attaching QR barcodes to products, street scenes, magazines, business cards and such when viewed through smartphone camera can redirect users to programmed URLs that can contain content, photos or videos. Facebook is experimenting with that technology, which brings privacy back under the microscope, front and center.

Tag software allows businesses that use these barcodes access to "advanced analytics" and "real-time location services." Since these codes add an augmented reality layer to a user's environment, anything viewed through a smartphone camera will now be tagged with markers and overlays that mesh the real-world with the virtual. Points of Interest (POI) and business establishments have a new means to communicate with users using this location-based functionality.

As a result you can track where users are acquiring products and services - or better yet, you can direct them to locations and URLs to purchase them. The implications for brand marketing is multi-faceted and in 2010, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are just at the cusp of capitalizing on this lucrative advertising channel.

While TechCrunch reported on "Facebook Kicks Off Implementation Of QR Codes" back in March, the story has laid dormant for these last few months, probably because Zuckerberg is still digging himself out from his Open Graph backlash. But according to Robin Wauters, she had received enough tips to believe that Facebook was enabling users to generate their own custom two-dimensional QR codes.

This Facebook bio image was submitted to TechCrunch by Marco Schierhorn.

In response to TechCrunch's query to Facebook on this topic, they received the company's standard boilerplate response.

QR codes are generally more useful than a standard barcode in that they can store so much more data, and can be quickly read by a mobile phone through its camera. Here is an example of a t-shirt, where the wearer has posted his Facebook profile to his shirt in the format of a QR code.

This type of technology in the hands of Facebook could open them up to a world  of advertising that far exceeds anything they have in place presently. The possibilities are endless. Scan a product on a Facebook page and get an immediate personalized offer where you could purchase 'said' item on the spot. Advertisers in turn would pay Facebook 30% off every sale, using their Facebook Credit 'commissionable' model.

The same could be done in the mobile arena, when viewing a street scene. Cameras could detect, not only more information about the product but based on Facebook's Open Graph would be able to tell you how many of your friends "like" and recommend certain restaurants, bars, or even products viewed off a billboard.

On March 19, MC Siegler followed up Waters story with his own, indicating that "apparently, Facebook is doing some testing ahead of their location feature roll-out, which will use these (QR) codes." However, Siegler went on further to say that Facebook was to unveil its location plans at its f8 conference in April, which of course for anyone following this knows - never happened.

Facebook's ability to dominate the "hot" check-in functionality space of both Foursquare and Gowalla is imminent, if and when it makes its move. With Facebook at 400 million users and the other LBSs only at 1 million, this Goliath versus David scenario is easy to determine who would quickly become victorious. And by adding QR codes and augmented reality to the mix, Facebook could easily exceed even Google in controlling the mobile-based advertising channel (see "Could Tag Technology Replace Google Search?")

The only thing holding it back - is more backlash - which is a little more than it can chew at the present time - particularly with their recent Federal DC briefing on privacy last week (see "Mr. Zuckerberg Goes To Washington -Shouldn't Facebook's Privacy Briefing Be …errh Public?")

Facebook's DC Briefing isn't Public?Facebook's DC Briefing isn't Public?
May 31, 2010
by Anonymous

QR Codes

I’m not really sure why QR Codes are a privacy concern. The code only contains text, mostly commonly a URL but it can also be an SMS or a phone number.

It could be used for advertising by Facebook but there are better image recognition solutions such as Snaptell or Pongr (iPhone) that let you take pictures of the product rather than a code.

Regardless I doubt QR Codes would bring in serious revenue on advertising. QR Codes have been around since the 1990s and haven’t really caught on outside of Japan.

May 31, 2010
by Anonymous

qr codes

I believe that QR codes are more about mobile web and hard-linking - which can be a great tool for communication for any brand. I think QR codes will be a great opportunity for many brands to explore mobile web on the many smartphones that are not being utilized to their potential.