San Francisco Bars to Install Creepy Facial Detection Cameras Inside Venues

Categories: DrunkSF, Tech, WTF?
Thumbnail image for face_detect_result.jpg
Shots of you doing shots
Update May 16: Leilani Brennan, owner and operator of Eve Lounge, claims she had talked with SceneTap about the technology, but has no plans to use the cameras.


UPDATE: Read our Q&A with SceneTap's CEO explaining the technology.

Last year, San Franciscans were pretty freaked out when they learned that some of their favorite watering holes had installed cameras and were live-streaming footage of them taking one too many shots of Patrón. To add to an already sinister Friday night, local bars have decided to go ahead keep tabs on you via facial recognition technology.


SceneTap, the Austin-based nightlife startup, is officially launching its facial detection software at 25 bars in San Francisco on Friday, including Mr. Smith's and Pete's Tavern. Using a free iPhone or Android App, you can get a snapshot of the San Francisco bar scene, including male-to-female ratio, average age, and crowd size -- all in real time. In short, you can find out if there are enough women to hit on before you bother getting decked out for the night.

So here's how it works, according to SceneTap: Bars place special facial detection cameras inside venues, which pick up on facial characteristics to determine approximate age and gender of the bar crowd. All your personal information remains anonymous, and nothing about you or your face is stored long-term.

Venue owners have their own stake in it. They will have access to this aggregated demographic information, and over time they can use it to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. In other words, did that ladies-drink-free special actually draw more women to the bar?

SceneTap is already up and running in a half-dozen other cities, and to date, the company's cameras have tracked more than 8.5 million people in bars and restaurants in these cities. In any event, here's a list of the bars that will be watching you, according to SceneTap:

  • Bamboo Hut
  • Bar None
  • Eastside West
  • Eve Lounge
  • Fluid Ultra Lounge
  • HiFi
  • John Colins
  • Kozy Kar Bar
  • Manor West
  • Mayes Oyster House
  • McTeague's Saloon
  • Milk Bar
  • Monaghan's
  • Mr. Smith's
  • Noble
  • Polo Grounds
  • R Bar
  • Southpaw
  • Taverna Aventine
  • The Ambassador
  • The Wreck Room
  • Tope

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128 comments
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MsVeronicaLeon
MsVeronicaLeon

Hey I heard SceneTap's cameras have xray vision, also. The cameras can see through wallets and steal identities.

Get over your Big Brother fear, have you guys not seen all of the security cameras installed everywhere else? Or thought about the data that gets stored from your google searches? Yeah, your herpes scare is stored somewhere in the interwebs..

Angel Pagan
Angel Pagan

Hockey Haven is a great alternative to the R Bar

Kozy Kar
Kozy Kar

Kozy Kar will not use Scene Tap and has terminated any association with the company.

Renard Sur Trempoline
Renard Sur Trempoline

1) Thanks for the list of venues I won't bother going to and will actively steer people away from. That IS a time / money -saver, for sure.

2) There really are no words for how mundanely gross this is. Saying that this is less invasive than some other techniques venues use to gather data is tantamount to getting a parking ticket and thinking "Yes, she's a meter maid, but she's nice compared to the other ones.". Still a meter maid. Still a ticket. 

3) I am offended that other people aren't more outraged by this. Realize it or not, turning EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD into marketing data is a terrible idea. The main goal of these efforts is to liberate more of your money from your wallet, and the more sophisticated that marketing gets, the more money they liberate via useless frivolity and the worse things get for individuals, especially poor ones who have the most to loose and are arguably more susceptible to garbage like this. Wise up, people. If it makes no difference to you either way, then err on the side of privacy and shut nonsense like this down.4) The SceneTap engineers clearly are capable, if unethical. Shouldn't they be spending their energies doing something positive instead of making people nauseous and causing them to look over their shoulders when they step out for a pint?

Concerned
Concerned

You omitted Comet Club from the list of local SceneTap bars. They're named as a venue on the SceneTap website; please update.

Sry355
Sry355

You people are idiots. You are being filmed everywhere you go: the bank, the supermarket, department stores, gas stations and at bars since every retail store has a surveillance system. Everything is being filmed and has been for years.

Typical of people who embrace technology and gladly give away their information (Twitter, Facebook etc) to be the first to complain.

You should never leave your house, use a cell phone or a computer.

Cameron Crowe
Cameron Crowe

good thing you'll never find me at any of these bars!

Surprised?
Surprised?

haha whats funny is people freak out about this as if most camera's with anything sembling a hard line or internet connection can be tapped into and utilize the same if not better biometric scanning functions

BanjoBuxby
BanjoBuxby

should include machine olfaction as part of the venue analysis. it'd be so amusing.

Johnphurt
Johnphurt

to all of you ppl freaking out... you're being ridiculous..acting as if you're already not on camera in these places.. "oh my god I'm going to be on camera.. they're watching me and tracking me and storing your info". they're already watching you. pretty much everywhere you're going they're watching you. stores bars restaurants Facebook apple google..theyre all looking for trends and ways to better help their users.. and the best way to do that is to see who/how they're being used.. and if the owner wanted to spend the time to track customers via cameras he or she already could. but instead they're hiring an outside company to track it for them and hopefully draw more of a crowd.  seems legit to me from a business perspective.. ill have to check out the app to see if its worth checking out the "scene" before checking the place out in person

flanksteak
flanksteak

Yet another reason to drink at home ... by yourself ... in the dark.

David S
David S

It makes me want to go to one of these bars with some cardboard cutouts.Or just faces drawn on paddles. Imagine 50 ping pong paddles with a male faceon one side, female on the other… 

c o t l
c o t l

yeah i already avoid those bars......

Promero
Promero

The upside of the app is great; i ei the getting the 411 on the bar before heading out and I don't care about bars gathering marketing statistics either. However, unless there is a clear warning sign posted for patrons and the company's security has been audited by a reliable third party - and we have a legal document publicly posted that states the data will never be made available for subpoena (Divorce court anyone, homeland security) or provided to any government agency... then this is a horrible idea.

Jay
Jay

These are mostly just Marina and club-type bars. Who cares? 

Fem Mystique
Fem Mystique

Nope, I won't be going to any of these.  

Have the bar owners considered that they'll lose business by showing a sparsely populated venue to people sitting at home?

SceneTap
SceneTap

Actually, we've found the opposite happens. Some people are looking for a quiet place to have a drink and conversation. Other people like the crazy nightlife atmosphere. We just match people up with the scene for them.

Guest
Guest

 How long does the place stay quiet as people descend upon it? Isn't that self defeating?

SFNativeSon
SFNativeSon

As had already been noted, none of these are bars with particular character.  

The douchey, party-til-you puke crowd at each of them is pretty interchangeable.  Most are the sort where the specialty cocktail involves Red Bull. 

If this new technology helps corral more of their usual herd and keep them out of the better venues I like to haunt, I'm ok with it.

Nobody
Nobody

@ bob kowalski-- we dont miss you. @ scene tap-- ya'll are fucking creepy and have no social skills. this is creepy and fucked up and if you disagree you ARE the problem.

Crankygirl143
Crankygirl143

i just have to ask…do you always, feel…  like someones watching you? no need to answer that question, just ponder for a sec. 

Jc
Jc

I call bullshit on this. I work at one of these bars, and you can't even decipher individual faces on our security cameras. Where is there even a database of faces for this software to pull from?

Jason Anderson
Jason Anderson

Everyone seems to be in an uproar about this.  Google MV Track, LPR, and all the other camera devices that are watching you everywhere you go in public.  This is already happening everywhere.  Stop being so naive and deal with the present.  Cameras watch us, so what.

Porky
Porky

Hey they are doing this to track Facebook customer's and keeping a personal file on them.

Chris Stehlik
Chris Stehlik

How many people swearing to never go to these bars have even been to one of them in the first place (much less are regulars) ? 3 days from now, how many will even be able to name the bars on that list without looking at the article.  In two weeks, if a friend calls up and says 'Hey a bunch of us are meeting at Bar (x),' will you check this list first? Or will you just go to the bar to meet your friends ?  If you're upset, that's fine, but recognize what you are willing to do or not.

Bob Kowalski
Bob Kowalski

there..End of Rant :)>

Max43kline
Max43kline

 U r a effing troll. For one u make lots of generalizations about Ca which happens to be one of the most progressive places in the world. u act like the location i live in decides whether or not im self centered, well fuck u, many Californians spend a great deal of time caring for others and in many other places u will find self centered douche bags. In fact how self centered are we in CA, i remind u that we give more social benefits here than most of the world, why? BECAUSE WE CARE ABOUT OTHERS u r a self centered douchto write an entire page on a comment board about how others comments make u feel... F U

Bob Kowalski
Bob Kowalski

 then i guess you are one of the ones that IS able to get ahead and such..i was just trying to say how its wierd that many of the people that were saying this tech was bad had a link to their facebook and twitter accounts and you can see all about them there.  I wondered off topic, my bad.

Notthatworried
Notthatworried

I can see how this could be a really interesting tool. I will start to get concerned when law enforcement taps into the database.

ShadowNextGen
ShadowNextGen

This has pros and cons.  I think it is amazing that you can see if a bar is really crowded before you venture out so you don't waste an evening trying to find a good spot to go with friends.  I'm not cool with the potential privacy concerns this introduces though.  I'm not going to put on my tin foil hat like some people here have but both sides of the argument are viable.

Brent
Brent

I can understand the shock value of "facial recognition," but in stepping back and evaluating services that I (and most people) use, do(track) far more than these cameras.1) You are in public - and honestly there are public cams everywhere. Keeping your face, in some cases, forever without your consent. And how much consent is there for people that are captured in the use of captured video. Honestly, those Catch-The-Bad-Guy clip shows (like Speeders) feature all kinds of captured footage, that I'm positive they release without consent of the filmed. So yeah, you can never be sure in the end what the tech can/will be used for.

2) Phones GPS is nearly always on for most people. Yup. Your location is always known.<tangent> @Starr Piwowarski,  I think this is more the point the other poster was trying to make. Say it isn't in your name, etc... phone records, patterns, and your family's corroboration will confirm it is your phone, and that you are the one using it - should that information ever be needed in a court.</tangent>

3) On average, people make far more personal information available to facebook & google and other services than anything else.

I understand the shock. But these guys are doing far less than the other players that are already in your pocket. Sounds 1984ish at first, but in reality, as this discussion has illuminated, it is more so just a bad(expensive for what it is, carries so much negative public opinion, and will produce skewed data by its nature) business plan at trying to solve small business owner's problems.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

 If you're on Facebook and/or leave your phone's GPS on the whole time, you're asking for trouble. SpyTap is just another "feature" of the tech world to avoid.

Mahalo09072001
Mahalo09072001

Big brother no thank u. One more reason to lock up stay home

Nope nope nope.
Nope nope nope.

Won't go to these bars again. Thanks for the heads up.

Guest
Guest

Oh look, In-Q-Tel---(Yeah, that's the CIA's's own VC firm) Is a primary investor! Sounds about right. 

Dhilibre
Dhilibre

What kind of socially inept shut-in troglodytes thought this was a good idea???  Anyway, I keep reading their name as SpineTap.  Which is the next logical step: get your DNA samples off your lip imprints on the glass rims.  there's the next big tech boom for you--(paying attention?) that's right, get DNA prints and then run them into a giant computer to match up bar clientele to see who is the best match for whom.  We're gonna make that Master Race yet!  Sorry, I'm ranting a little...it's also creepy that SceneTap is eavesdropping on this conversation.  Go away SceneTap, you're ruining the party.

Jason
Jason

In my opinion, bars/venuesshould avoid this technology for the following reasons

 

1.    It’s just plain creepy, whateveryou are gaining it clearly isn’t worth the negative press.

2.     Nightclubs are built onillusion, the idea that there might be a crowd of people where there likelyisn't one.  So now, the venue is exposed and avoided by patrons on the timeswhen they actually need people to show up (cause everybody knows your empty),but on the times where they are busy and there is a good m/f ratio, they get...more people?  All this in exchange for marginal data gathering, which shouldbe intuitive to an owner.  

3.      We all know that a busybar time far exceeds the venue's fire code capacity and the fines are steep.  This seems like a perfect way for the policeto know when you are out of compliance and to “randomly” show up on a Saturdaynight.  Better yet, what if a bar fighthappened? Wouldn’t a lawyer just look at the data and say “xyz bar isconsistently overcrowded, so security couldn’t do their job”.   

pfffft
pfffft

Bye R Bar and Mayes.  Good luck with your new clientele.

Tom Grigor
Tom Grigor

Lucky for us all every bar on this list is already a terrible place to frequent. Way to make your awful soul crushing establishments even worse. Thanks for the handy list of places to never drink at.

Meh
Meh

I'm not sure what all the fuss about. Step one: print out a photo of your favorite celebrity and cut it out to make it into a mask. Step two: wear aforementioned mask in any of these bars, and wait for paparazzi storm in looking for Miley Cyrus.

Really though, it's just a camera with software that's doing its best guess when it sees a face to discern if that face has a penis.

Jameson
Jameson

Thats why I moved out of SF last year. Its now Palo Also's new city. The tech nerds are so nerdy they dont want to leave there overpriced housing to see whats going on. Sf was fun years ago not now. Unless you have a rent controlled appartment/cheap rent or (prop13) home from before 1984 or so your a douch......lol

Rebecca Gardner
Rebecca Gardner

 I have a rent controlled apartment with a million dollar view.  They're gonna have to kill me in my sleep to get me to leave.  LOL.

salinas_rocks
salinas_rocks

Notice how even the author has a firm grasp on how this technology will be used to market women (as objects) to men (as money spending consumers) with terms like:  "Ladies-drink-free," or "find out if there are enough women to hit on.."  In short, this technology is invasive and its design marks women as chattel to attract male wallets, their pick-up-artistry and perhaps even their date rape drugs.  The concept of Scene Tap is disgusting enough without its implementation in San Francisco.  Any woman with a brain would avoid being further targeted by such invasive technology and boycott bars who use it.  WE ARE NOT CHATTEL.  Keep this big brother garbage out of SF.  

howardtaft
howardtaft

I just want to say I liked that you used the word "chattel" twice in that post.    

Horder
Horder

 salinas_rocks said:"Any woman with a brain would avoid being further targeted by such invasive technology and boycott bars who use it."- - - -Or use it as a self promotion to widen her pickings or goto bars with high male ratio. And women will be scanning their phones for men too.

T
T

Whoa! Big Brother's big brother is HERE. Appreciate a list of bars that I WILL avoid. And damn, I did appreciate the Ambassador's 2 buck tuesdays....

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