Do you use QR or “Quick Response” codes with your smartphone? They are the small boxes with squiggly little patterns that can magically link your smartphone’s browser to a commercial Web site for the purpose of buying stuff. They are on magazine and newspaper ads, as well as posters and signs at the shopping mall.
They were created to make it easier for stores to connect with consumers and vice versa, and they were rather quickly adopted by advertisers a few years ago when the technology was created. Advertisers felt that it helped enhance responses from print advertising immensely, helping to drive more revenues without costing hardly anything to develop. Consumers liked them because when they saw an ad for a product they wanted, they didn’t have to memorize a Web address or Google the product name later. All they had to do was scan the QR code with their phone and let the technology do the work for them.
Well, they may wind up going the way of the BetaMax and the fax machine soon. Here’s why.
First is the discovery of QR codes by sneaky little hackers. According to a report on CNet, it’s only a matter of time before hackers start taking your smartphone to places it really shouldn’t ought to go, potentially compromising key pieces of data such as your phone number, email addresses (and passwords) your credit card info,your bank account numbers and more.
The potential dangers for consumers who use these codes far outweigh the benefit. And keep in mind, if a sneaky little hacker is going to throw some fake codes out there to get your personal information off of your smartphone, it’s not like he will put a big red flag on the ad and identify the code as a dangerous one. He might create a fake poster for a trusted company or brand name and then plaster the streets with them. After all, if they can use Britney Spears’ thighs and butt look smaller via photoshop, it can’t be that difficult to fake a Sears ad for power tools.
Even now, experts are advising consumers not to scan codes randomly found on the street, in handmade signs or on the sides of buildings. If you don’t know who the QR code belongs to, chances are you’d best not scan it.
But there is a further backlash among business professionals who are finding the codes to be ugly, unsightly and too onerous to place on advertising content. For advertisers who want certain advertisements to portray a singular image, or highlight a celebrity, blanketing it with logos and QR codes will sometimes interfere with that image evoking the kind of emotional response that is intended.
So, if you’re a business, rethink how you use QR codes, because the word is getting out that they may not be the safest things for consumers to use. And as a consumer, I’d cut back on using them so often. You never know when that ad for the new model car you like may actually be from a bank in Nigeria.