Facial Recognition in Stores Threatens Privacy

Facial Recognition in Stores Threatens Privacy

Privacy is a sensitive topic. Increasingly, consumers have been ditching it for the sake of convenience. We now live in the time of auto-pay, and Alexa knows the ins and outs of our daily lives. Not so long ago, we feared e-commerce’s use of cookies to make personal recommendations based on our observed interests.

The Price of Personalization
Digital personalization technologies offer practical ways for businesses to capture and control client data. They intended to deliver personalized customer experiences and decrease returns. In a data-driven world, amid security breaches among significant brands, customers still show little reluctance regarding e-commerce. Sensitive information such as their card transaction, website visits, movements, and location are frequently collected to build up a picture of their habits and preferences.

For those who prefer shopping brick-and-mortar, they will find their habits tracked even online as recognition technology finds its way into stores. As retail stores grapple with theft issues, a Racked report reveals that stores could be using facial recognition technology to track consumers in a bid to apprehend shoplifters. A National Retail Federal survey data quoted by Racked says offline stores lose around $48.9 billion annually to thieves.

Facial Recognition in Brick-and-Mortar Stores
To prevent loss, some retail stores turned to companies like FaceFirst and StopLift. This technology allows companies to upload images of people they wish to monitor, such as those who have stolen from their stores previously and other suspects. Once in the system, the FaceLift technology recognizes a shoplifter the moment they enter a store. FaceLift claims it has brought down theft by around 34% in stores.

While minimizing theft is a noble feat, there are concerns regarding technology. Computerworld.com reports that face recognition is 100 times more dangerous than all systems of identification regarding the potential for privacy violation. Unlike a fingerprint, wrist vein scans, iris scans, and other biometric data which require permission to capture, the facial recognition technology does not. They just need a photo.

Pictures are easy to obtain. Retail companies regularly photograph clients using video cameras and intelligent software. More so, it is incredibly easy to connect images to names. Once complete, the information can be used to track clients easily. A name can easily lead to a home address, phone number, and a substantial amount of other data, putting the consumer at risk.


Author:  Christine Duff

Christine wants to live in a world filled with cutting edge fashion, beautiful words and and an endless supply of leather jackets and boots. A product development grad of FIDM, she was the Editor-in-Chief of MODE Magazine where she reignited her love of storytelling. She has diverse experience within the industry with trend research, art direction and styling editorial spreads. She gained her most notable experience working in Los Angeles at the satellite operation for GQ and Vogue Thailand. Christine is passionate about social science and the role it plays in the consumer goods industry and apparel in particular.


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