Mon Dec 14 2020
Co-Op says the system protects their staff from assault by shoplifters, but privacy groups push back
UK Privacy groups have reacted strongly to the use of facial recognition systems in Co-Op supermarkets.
It’s currently being used in eighteen shops ran by Southern Co-Op in southern England and is provided by tech and facial recognition start-up, Facewatch.
The use of facial recognition by Co-Op was announced via a blog post on Facewatch’s website by Gareth Lewis, who’s Southern Co-Op’s Loss Prevention Officer.
We have completed a successful trial using Facewatch FR in a select number of stores where there is a higher level of crime. It gives our teams time to decide on the best action which is incredibly important. Our teams have been trained to use the app and watch list software and all of our customers have been made aware with distinctive signage and that the system is compliant with GDPR regulations.
He continued to say that the decision to implement the facial recognition software was taken after incidents of assault against Co-Op’s staff had increased by 80% in the last few months, most of which concerned staff members approaching suspected thieves.
The system automatically notifies staff members when such an individual enters a store, giving them time to decide on a best course of action.
The use of facial recognition software in a major supermarket chain has alarmed many privacy groups who have questioned whether it’s use is justified under GDPR regulations.
In an open letter to Southern Co-Op, Privacy International (PA) publicly questioned how lawful the new technology was in their stores.
We are writing to voice our serious concerns and call for urgent assurances regarding the use of Facewatch facial recognition cameras in your stores. We are concerned that such a deployment at Southern Co-Op stores - even at trial level - could mean that, in order to purchase essential goods, people might be in effect left with no choice but to submit themselves to facial recognition scans.
Privacy International also questioned whether Co-Op were sharing the data collected with the Police.
Their concern is that facial recognition is software is still relatively new technology and has caused a lot of outrage recently over several high-profile inaccuracies and errors that have been reported publicly. In fact, back in August the Welsh Court of Appeal ruled that some aspects of the Polices facial recognition program were illegal.
Mon Dec 14 2020