Is facial recognition a viable solution for reducing shoplifting?
As identification accuracy improves and costs come down, more stores are installing facial recognition security cameras to reduce shoplifting, according to a report from Loss Prevention Media. But their use is largely being kept a secret from shoppers.
Commonly, the way the process works, stores enroll known shoplifters into a database. Shoplifters who are caught often readily agree to have their face scanned to avoid being prosecuted. A national database is in the works, which will be used to alert loss prevention personnel within seconds of a known shoplifter entering a store. Authorized staff can then tell the shoplifter they’ve been banned from the location.
A report from NBC Los Angeles indicated that the technology has been proven to reduce shoplifting by 25 percent. For store staff, quick detection also reduces the time spent following potential shoplifters around the store as well as detaining and processing them if caught stealing.
While the legal implications of facial recognition haven’t been fully vetted, stores tend to keep the system invisible to shoppers due to privacy concerns.
“We shouldn’t be having the equivalent of our fingerprint being taken without our consent. It’s not right,” Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, told NBC Los Angeles last December.
Privacy concerns about facial recognition are perhaps more widely heard in reference to potential marketing applications. The technology promises to identify and reward loyal customers as well as track what individuals may have looked at but didn’t buy while shopping in stores.
Security advocates point to facial recognition technology already being widely used by casinos, the military and law enforcement. Moreover, because retailers keep scanned images only of identified shoplifters, shopper’s privacy is not invaded.
Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international digital rights organization, told Loss Prevention Media, “A system that is designed to look only for people who have been convicted of shoplifting in the past is not going to be a threat to privacy for the vast majority of shoppers.”
- Facial Recognition Security Cameras: A Game-Changing Technology – Loss Prevention Media
- Facial Recognition Providers Offer Service That Retailers Want to Have, But Not Acknowledge – NBC Los Angeles
- Walmart’s Use of Sci-fi Tech To Spot Shoplifters Raises Privacy Questions – Fortune
- National Retail Security Survey 2016 – National Retail Federation
- The science of stealing – University of Florida
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think facial recognition when used to deter shoplifting raises the same privacy issues as those related to in-store marketing? Should stores reveal to shoppers that they are employing the technology for security purposes?