Facial recognition still gets mixed reception in retail stores

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Two retailers in Australia have temporarily halted the use of facial recognition systems on their floors as they are under investigation for possibly breaching national privacy laws.

Meanwhile, a UK retailer is resisting criticism for rolling out the technology.

Decision Report per Bunnings and Kmart, The Canberra Times reports that 17 major retailers said they were not considering using shopper-focused facial recognition.

The couple would be reviewed by the Australian Information Commissioner.

A managing director of the Bunnings warehouse chain told The Times that increasingly aggressive organized crime in retail had prompted the company to install the systems only in certain stores.

The system used scans the faces and compares them to those of former troublemakers. If there is no match, the analysis is deleted. The matches give rise to a call to the police.

Kmart said his hand was forced by the crime. A manager told the newspaper that the behaviors are not recorded for marketing purposes or to improve store performance.

At least one complaint pushed by privacy advocates is that there’s no realistic way for buyers to know they’re being scanned, to know what it means, which could mean they’re not giving not their informed consent to be analyzed.

A UK retail chain, the Southern Co-Op is also the subject of a privacy complaint, this one filed with the country’s Information Commissioner by privacy advocate Big BrotherWatch.

Like Bunnings, the Southern convenience store would have put cameras to combat higher crime in some outlets. Again, images are collected and biometrics analyzed against captured individuals exhibiting antisocial behavior in theft, according to the BBC.

Big Brother Watch says blacklists are being compiled. In the event of a mistake, innocent shoppers could be asked to leave a store.

Retailers Using Facial Recognition Aren’t Necessarily Doing Anything Wrong, Says One article in the trade publication Loss Prevention Magazine.

The technology is mature and has more use cases than just preventing theft. High-end retailers can use it to identify preferred shoppers, showing them faster, more personalized service.

However, it continues to meet resistance from some buyers and skepticism from some retailers, particularly in America, with Home Depot an example of a trial rollout that ended with no production rollout.

Facefirst CRO Dara Riordan tells Loss Prevention that her company has a US rollout, but in hundreds of locations, while Latin America is its biggest customer base.

Article topics

Australia | biometric matching | biometrics | video surveillance | criminal identification | facial recognition | fraud prevention | personalization | retail biometrics | United Kingdom | video surveillance

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