The Southern Co-Op chain is facing a legal challenge over its ‘Orwellian’ and ‘illegal’ use of facial recognition cameras.
Privacy group Big Brother Watch claims supermarket employees can add people to a secret ‘blacklist’ without their knowledge.
But Southern said it is using the Facewatch system at stores with a criminal history, so it can protect its employees.
Big Brother Watch says the independent grocer has installed the surveillance technology in 35 stores across Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Chichester, Southampton and London.
It claims employees can add individuals to a watch list, where their biometric information is kept for up to two years.
Earlier this year, the Mail on Sunday revealed that the facial recognition camera being used by Southern Co-Op was made by a Chinese state-owned company.
Hikvision cameras have been listed as a national security threat in the US while the UK Ministry of Defense has issued guidelines not to use the company’s equipment.
And the company has been blacklisted by the US government for its involvement in human rights abuses against Muslim Uighurs in China while MPs called for a nationwide ban. UK.
Privacy concerns: The Southern Co-Op chain is facing a legal challenge over its ‘Orwellian’ and ‘illegal’ use of facial recognition cameras (stock image)
FACEWATCH: HOW TECHNOLOGY TO KNOW HUMANS
Facewatch has boasted of plans to introduce its system in more than 500 stores and gas stations.
It claims the facial recognition system is 97.8% accurate, even when wearing a mask – and emphasizes that it only uses pictures of previous offenders and no images are shared. with the police.
This technology sends an alert as soon as a topic of interest enters a premise and is shared national facial recognition watchlist.
However, critics have questioned the legitimacy of the system in stores.
Facial recognition cameras are a controversial technology, with questions about how they recognize darker shades of skin, along with ethical concerns about privacy.
According to Big Brother Watch’s complaint filed with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the surveillance system ‘uses new technology and processes personal data highly invasively, generating biometric profiles’ of every visitor to the stores where the cameras are installed’.
The group’s director, Silkie Carlo, said: ‘Our legal complaint with the Information Commissioner is an important step towards protecting the privacy of thousands of people affected by privatized espionage, dangerous intrusions, and privatization. this danger.
‘The Southern Co-op’s use of live facial recognition surveillance is Orwellian, most likely illegal, and must be stopped immediately by the Information Commissioner.’
The Big Brother Watch ICO complaint claims that the Facewatch system violates data protection laws because information is processed in ways that are disproportionate to the need to prevent crime.
The single camera captures the faces of people entering the store, before the images are analyzed and converted into biometric data.
This number was then compared with a database of individuals the cooperative said had stolen from its stores or engaged in violence.
Southern Co-Op, which is independent of the larger Co-op chain but operates more than 200 stores in the south of England under the same brand, insists it is not a list of people with a criminal record, but are the people the business already has. evidence of criminal or anti-social behavior.
It says the technology is GDPR compliant, ‘while allowing us to gather evidence against thieves taking advantage of more in our stores before discussing it with local police’.
In a statement to the BBC, Southern Co-Op said it would welcome ‘constructive feedback’ from the Information Commissioner.
The chain added: ‘We take our responsibility for the use of facial recognition extremely seriously and work hard to balance the rights of our customers with the need to protect our colleagues and customers. me from violence and unacceptable abuse.
‘The safety of our colleagues and customers is paramount and this technology has made a significant difference to this, given the limited number of high-risk locations being used. use.
‘Signs are displayed in relevant shops.
Southern Co-Op is independent of the larger Co-op chain but operates more than 200 stores in the south of England under the same brand. Pictured: a Co-Op in Bristol
‘As long as it continues to prevent violent attacks, then we believe its use is justifiable.’
The supermarket’s system is powered by Facewatch, a live facial recognition company, which says it helps retailers catch fraudsters and violent customers.
Facewatch says it keeps a database of ‘subjects of interest’ faces for two years, although facial recognition technology is known to return a large number of false matches.
The company also claims the unprecedented faces will be ‘immediately removed’.
Facewatch says its technology ‘has been shown to be effective in crime prevention and our customers significantly reduce crime.’
It also offers biometric cameras for Costcutter, Sports Direct, Spar, and Nisa.
HOW DOES EYE RECEIVED TECHNOLOGY WORK?
Facial recognition software works by matching a real-time image to a person’s previous photo.
Each face has about 80 unique nodules on the eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth that help distinguish one person from another.
A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, the depth of the eye sockets, the distance between the eyes, and the shape of the jawline.
Another smart surveillance system (pictured) that can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to select targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country
This generates a unique code that can then be associated with a matching code obtained from a previous photograph.
A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to identify targets.
Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon surpass fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people.