CSC report finds that 25% of U.K. retailers use facial recognition in store

September 14, 2015 - 

Business solutions and services provider CSC released a new report entitled “Next generation in-store technology: Where do shoppers and retailers stand?”, which finds that 25% of UK retailers are using facial recognition technology in an effort to monitor customer activities at their stores, according to a report by Computing.

Additionally, the report states that 59% of fashion retailers are deploying the technology, while 46% are using facial recognition for security purposes — in other words, to identify known shoplifters so that they can more effectively target their security resources.

The findings represent a larger trend of retailers using potentially privacy-infringing methods in an effort to both learn more about their customers — including their likes, dislikes and how they navigate stores — as well as to provide more personalized customer service in their stores.

“Having the right technology and infrastructure in place, such as big data and customer analytics, will help retailers to better understand their clients. However, this data needs to be laser focused as they look to adapt to changing consumer buying habits in this rapidly evolving environment,” said David Baldwin, industry general manager at CSC’s UK retail business. “The survey points out that customer analytics are key to retailers providing a more personalized service to shoppers, but retailers are often overwhelmed with data.”

Baldwin said that in many cases, retailers are gathering more data than they can use, in hopes that they will be able to use the data later with the development of big data analytics.

He added that retailers ought to be make a greater effort in gaining customer confidence and consent in terms of using bought-in data from third parties, and how the information is used and applied to existing databases.

Ramanan Ramakrishna, CSC’s director and regional general manager for UK, Ireland & Netherlands’ emerging technologies, said that retailers need to improve their data governance and privacy policies involving the use of this data in order to “make consumers more comfortable” over their increasing use of facial recognition technology.

The Information Commissioner’s Office states that the laws currently surrounding a retailer’s use of facial recognition in-store “would depend on how the customers personal information is being used as to whether their permission was needed”.

“If the data is used anonymously then retailers wouldn’t need permission, but if the personal data could identify someone and was being stored, a retailer would have to comply with the Data Protection Act, processing data fairly and lawfully, being transparent with customers as to how their data is used and obtaining consent where necessary,” said the ICO.

Previously reported, RichRelevance published a new UK study, “Creepy or Cool” that reveals that 70% of UK shoppers find facial recognition technology that identifies age and gender in order to display product recommendations “creepy”.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.