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Kiosk Privacy? A New Porn Kiosk Makes The Case For Why It’s Not Private, While Arguing That It Is

Written by Evan Schuman
May 23rd, 2011

We don’t typically do stories about pornography—marketing claims within retail IT are usually obscene enough for anybody—but the inherent retail privacy contradictions in this porn kiosk announcement were too much to resist.

There is already an imminent consumer privacy collision with kiosks, given their data-sharing and network-connections nature. While this porn kiosk touts privacy, which would seem to make sense, it also requires a driver’s license and a payment card.

Those two documents certainly are good ideas, especially when arguing to retailers that the machines will not be usable by minors, but both also obliterate the claims of privacy. Were privacy the goal, it would seem that cash-only purchases would be far more effective. By trying to address age restrictions and privacy, the kiosks seem to deliver neither. The issue speaks to all kiosks, but this case is a wonderfully extreme example.

In this nicely done KioskMarketplace piece, the managing partner of the company that owns these kiosks—MindfulEye—tries to make his privacy case. “We are completely private,” the story quoted Ross as saying. “There is no trace of what you are looking at, renting or buying.” Except, that is, for a complete record of what is purchased or rented with the payment-card company—and all financial institutions along the payment route. We won’t bother mentioning the even more complete record with MindfulEye, a company that—as far as the consumer knows—might opt to sell such information to anyone out there.

(MindfulEye hasn’t promised to not sell any of its customers’ data, not that such a promise would comfort many consumers.)

And between the required payment card and driver’s license, there isn’t much identifiable data that this company would not know. That’s OK, though. All the consumer has to do is trust a company that sells and distributes porn kiosks. Who wouldn’t be comfortable doing that?

Once a purchase is made, the kiosk saves the content onto a flash drive and the customer then plugs that drive into any one of a number of compatible personal devices. The KioskMarketplace story reports that “movies cost between 99 cents and $5.95 and can be played on personal computers, televisions or a specially equipped gaming device.” Consumers are supposed to plug this drive into their devices without worrying about viruses or Trojans that might monitor or report back to the mothership?

The main point is that kiosks today—which, ironically, started out their existence promising true anonymity, compared with consumers having to ask questions of store associates—are sufficiently networked that they actually are more capable of capturing and sharing confidential information than their human counterparts.

The more sophisticated retail kiosks out there now are powerful and more useful than ever. But private? Or even seen by consumers as privacy-protecting? Not any more. This is that rare situation where consumer perceptions and reality are perfectly aligned. The more the kiosk asks—and the more personal the interaction—the less it’s going to be trusted. In turn, the less information consumers will want to share.


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