Privacy group slams ‘illegal’ co-op facial recognition cameras

A PRIVACY rights group has filed a complaint against the use of facial recognition cameras in Southern Co-operative stores, claiming it is “Orwellian” and “unlawful”.

According to Big Brother Watch’s complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the surveillance system uses “advanced technologies and highly invasive processing of personal data to create a biometric profile of every visitor to stores where its cameras are installed”.

The group said the chain had installed the surveillance technology in 35 stores, including two Hove branches – Western Road and Old Shoreham Road, Abinger Road in Portslade and Spitalfield Lane in Chichester.

Cameras in stores capture customers’ faces as they enter, analyzing their images and converting them into biometric data.

This is then checked against a database of people the cooperative has on record as having a history of stealing or violence.

The privacy rights group claimed supermarket workers could put individuals on a “blacklist” where such information would be retained for up to two years, but shoppers were not informed.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Our legal complaint with the Information Commissioner is an important step in protecting the privacy of thousands of people affected by this dangerously intrusive, privatized espionage.

“The Southern Co-op’s use of live facial recognition surveillance is extremely Orwellian, has a high probability of being unlawful and must be stopped immediately by the Information Commissioner.”

In a BBC statement, Southern Co-op said: “We take our responsibilities related to the use of facial recognition very seriously and are working hard to balance the rights of our customers with the need to protect our colleagues and customers from unacceptable violence and to protect abuse.

“The safety of our colleagues and customers is paramount and this technology has made a significant difference in the limited number of high-risk sites where it is deployed.

“The signage is displayed in the relevant shops. As long as it continues to prevent violent attacks, we believe its use is justified.” Privacy group slams ‘illegal’ co-op facial recognition cameras

Fry Electronics Team

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