Facial Recognition Tech Opposition Increases

Some stores say they will not install the technology, while others are using it to prevent fraud.

July 20, 2021

Facial ID

WORCESTER, Mass.—As more stores install facial recognition software to reduce theft and increase security, opposition to the technology is growing, Axios reports. Recently, more than 30 advocacy organizations started a campaign to get retailers to halt usage of facial recognition technology or to agree not to use it.

“Facial recognition vendors are taking advantage of the pandemic to promote the technology to offer hands-free payments or monitor the distance between people, and stores are promoting them as features for safety and convenience,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director for Fight for the Future, which lead the campaign. “But the truth is, you're giving up so much more than that.”

So far, Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Kroger are among the chains agreeing not to rely on facial recognition software. Stores using the technology include Albertson’s, Apple and Macy’s, although these chains say it’s only used to stop fraud and increase security.

Stores use the technology to identify rewards club members as soon as they enter a store, track how long customers stay in a store, and as part of a biometric system for employees. Some Chinese retailers, including Alibaba and JD, have supermarkets with automated carts that follow a customer around, wrist trackers to scan selections and facial recognition systems that collect payment.

Nearly half of the government agencies that have law enforcement officers use the technology. In June, Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) reintroduced a measure that would forbid federal agencies from working with biometric technology. Portland, Ore., is the first US locality to forbid the use of facial recognition by police, government and commercial groups like restaurants, retailers and hotels.

Facial recognition could be a bigger part of the retail technology landscape. Read more on “The ‘Vision’ of Future Checkout” in NACS Magazine.