Southern Co-op installs ‘Orwellian’ face recognition cameras

Shoppers have been urged to boycott the “deeply unethical” Southern Co-op after it introduced facial recognition cameras to stores.

It has installed the technology at 35 sites, in a bid to identify customers banned for shoplifting or anti-social behaviour.

According to The Telegraph, the cameras take biometric images which are then scanned against a “watch list”.

The retailer insisted the move would protect staff from retail crime, but campaigners believe that innocent shoppers will be blacklisted.

READ MORE: Southern Co-op stores sell out-of-date food to tackle waste

Speaking to the Grocery Gazette, a Co-op spokesperson admitted its cameras have a 3 per cent margin of error.

They continued: “The violence and abuse faced by our colleagues is sickening and unacceptable.

“We take our customers’ rights extremely seriously and have worked hard to balance these with the vital need to protect our store colleagues from appalling attacks.”

Cameras will apparently be restricted to stores with high levels of crime, while matches will be be validated by a human.

However, Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo urged Christmas shoppers to boycott the retailer until it changed its policy.

“The Co-op’s growing use of Orwellian facial recognition surveillance abuses customers’ rights and must be urgently stopped,” she said.

“The supermarket is adding customers to secret watch lists with no due process, meaning people can be blacklisted and denied the opportunity to do their food shopping despite being innocent.

“This is a deeply unethical and frankly chilling way for any business to behave.”

The cameras have been installed in roughly 17 per cent of Southern Co-op stores, which has “no plans at present to roll this out any further”.

It comes as the government said it would bring in tougher sentences for people who assaulted shop workers.

Ministers had resisted the move for months, but gave way as the return of mandatory mask wearing in stores threatened a wave of retail crime.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Stores have a right to restrict access to known shoplifters and disruptive customers. Correctly operated, I am not clear how this would restrict them access of law a bidding customers. There are cameras in all supermarkets and convenience stores. They help keep staff and customers safe, and reduce shop lifting, which in turn helps keep prices lower.

  • I don’t blame the Co-op or any other retailers for going down the seemingly drastic road of installing facial recognition technology in stores, since shop lifting is largely ignored by the Police and I understand if it the goods stolen are under a certain amount, then they won’t even come out, giving pilferers a free hand and suggesting that, in some cases, crime actually does pay! If the Police can’t effectively provide any sort of deterant by fear of being caught or arrested, and in most cases don’t even show up, what else are shops like the Co-op supposed to do to try to stop the serial shop lifters who regular steel from their stores? A sign of the times and a lack of interest from the Police, I think.


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