Southern Co-op slammed for ‘unlawful’ facial recognition in stores

The Southern Co-op has received complaints from privacy rights group Big Brother Watch over its use of facial recognition cameras, claiming it is “Orwellian” and “unlawful”.

According to the complaint made to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the surveillance system “uses novel technology and highly invasive processing of personal data, creating a biometric profile of every visitor to stores where its cameras are installed”.

As a result, the group claims the symbol group retailer has installed the “unlawful” technology across stores in London, Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton and Hove, Bristol and Chichester.

Big Brother Watch also claimed supermarket staff could add individual customers to a “blacklist” where the biometric information is kept for up to two years but shoppers were not informed.

READ MORE: The Co-op to axe 400 head office jobs due to ‘tough trading environment’

“Our legal complaint to the Information Commissioner is a vital step towards protecting the privacy rights of thousands of people who are affected by this dangerously intrusive, privatised spying,” Big Brother Watch group director Silkie Carlo said.

“The Southern Co-op’s use of live facial recognition surveillance is Orwellian in the extreme, highly likely to be unlawful, and must be immediately stopped by the Information Commissioner.”

However, the Southern Co-op told the BBC it welcomes “constructive feedback” from the Information Commissioner.

It said: “We take our responsibilities around the use of facial recognition extremely seriously and work hard to balance our customers’ rights with the need to protect our colleagues and customers from unacceptable violence and abuse.

“The safety of our colleagues and customers is paramount and this technology has made a significant difference to this, in the limited number of high-risk locations where it is being used.

“Signage is on display in the relevant stores.

“As long as it continues to prevent violent attacks, then we believe its use is justified.”

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • People that don’t want it don’t use the stores. Why should businesses, staff and other customers and be victims of violence and theft?

    Reply

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