Flaw with Foodstuffs facial recognition

It has been revealed that Foodstuffs supermarkets are using facial recognition to try to recognise shoplifters after a Dunedin man was incorrectly identified. Foodstuffs claims this was ‘human error’ .

ODT: Foodstuffs using facial recognition

Inquiries about a Dunedin man mistakenly identified as a shoplifter at New World have led to the revelation that New Zealand’s largest supermarket company  has quietly rolled out facial recognition CCTV technology in some of its North Island stores.

The man was allegedly mistakenly identified due to human error, and Foodstuffs NZ claimed facial recognition was not used in the South Island. However, the Otago Daily Times can reveal a different security system that “bridges the gap between businesses and the police” is now used at the Centre City New World in Dunedin, among other South Island stores.

Dunedin mechanic Daniel Ryan said he was recently taken aside by staff shortly after entering the Centre City New World in Great King St, owned by Foodstuffs. He alleged he was taken into a side room and questioned by staff, who said he had been identified as a known shoplifter.

Mr Ryan said the staff then realised he had been mis-identified and he received an apology from the company. While he appreciated the apology, the experience left him feeling humiliated.

“It’s quite bruising to be shuffled off to the side.”

This is disgraceful.

Foodstuffs head of external relations Antoinette Laird said “human error” had led to Mr Ryan being mistakenly identified as a shoplifter. Asked if Centre City New World was using a facial recognition surveillance system, Ms Laird said the technology was used in some of its stores, but none in Dunedin.

“A handful of stores in the North Island have facial recognition CCTV technology as part of their security system.

“We cannot provide specific store detail.”

Facial recognition technology is widely used by retailers overseas.

Supermarkets already have the ability to profile shoppers via the use of ‘loyalty’ cards. What next? In store promotions targeting face recognised shoppers?

That would be insidious, but nowhere near as bad as incorrectly identifying someone and falsely accusing them of being a shop lifter.

Whether New World in Dunedin use face recognition ‘security’ or not this incident raises an alarming issue.

I sometimes shop at Centre City New World. I will think carefully about whether I want to be observed in this way while shopping.