FaceFirst facial recognition coming to thousands of U.S. retail locations

Facial recognition systems using software from FaceFirst have been deployed to “hundreds of [retail] locations, growing to thousands very soon,” company CEO Peter Trepp told BuzzFeed News.

Retail now makes up close to half of FaceFirst’s business, Trepp says, and almost all of the top retailers in the U.S. have at least looked into the technology.

Spokespeople from Target, Walmart, and Lowe’s told BuzzFeed that they have run trials of facial recognition technology, and have not rolled it out, at least not yet. Target’s online privacy policy still says that its security cameras may use biometrics including facial recognition.

The BuzzFeed article notes that consent is not required for U.S. retailers to use biometrics, including facial recognition, except in Illinois. It also quotes American Civil Liberties attorney Jay Stanley, who says: “We don’t want to live in a world where government bureaucrats can enter in your name into a database and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual, and medical associations and activities are.”
“There is not currently consent for this,” says Trepp. “There are lots of protections in place to make sure that the activities that go on with the technology are centered around protecting the private property and the customers and employees of that business. This is not about tracking unknown people or using that data or marketing that data.”

Trepp said that a common retailer strategy is to offer an apprehended shoplifter a choice between opting into the store’s database and facing criminal charges. He says that FaceFirst’s technology, which is designed to scan faces up to 50 to 100 feet away, has reduced theft in retail customer’s stores by as much as 30 percent. It’s up to retailers to set policies, but FaceFirst automatically purges non-matching images every 14 days, its recommended minimum purge rate.

Trepp told Biometric Update that industry stakeholders should develop and use policies to protect consumer privacy while the legal landscape catches up to facial recognition technology, in order to foster public support for the technology, in an interview earlier this year.

FaceFirst launched its Fraud-IQ solution for brick-and-mortar stores earlier this year.

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