Barred From Grocery Stores by Facial Recognition British merchants

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Barred From Grocery Stores by Facial Recognition British merchants
Short Title Facial Recognition Used by UK Retailers
Location United Kingdom
Date June, 2023

Solove Harm Surveillance, Aggregation, Identification, Exclusion
Information Behavioral, Criminal, Ethnicity, Family, Identifying, Physical Characteristics, Preference, Sexual, Social Network, Knowledge & Belief, History
Threat Actors Private retailers

Affected Customers, Shoplifters and problematic customers
High Risk Groups People
Tangible Harms Anxiety, Change of Behavior, Embarrassment, Lost Opportunity, Loss of Trust

Facial recognition technology, such as Facewatch, is increasingly used by private retailers in the UK to identify shoplifters and problematic customers, raising concerns about privacy, potential misidentifications, and the normalization of surveillance.


The article discusses how private retailers in the UK are increasingly using facial recognition technology, particularly a system called Facewatch, to address minor offenses like shoplifting. Facewatch allows stores to share a list of flagged individuals, notifying store employees when someone from the list enters a participating store. With nearly 400 stores using Facewatch, it employs facial recognition to identify individuals based on a watchlist created from uploaded photos of known shoplifters. However, critics express concerns about privacy and proportionality, especially regarding potential misidentifications.

In the context of Solove Taxonomy, the deployment of Facewatch raises privacy issues. Continuous surveillance through Facewatch falls under "Surveillance," potentially impacting customers' daily privacy. The aggregation of multiple videos during surveillance aligns with the "Aggregation" concept, risking the collection of sensitive information. Facewatch's identification mechanism, while aiming to link with known faces, may introduce errors, like recognizing siblings of shoplifters, leading to unnecessary associations, representing the "Identification" aspect. Furthermore, errors in Facewatch could exclude innocent individuals, barring them from stores even without any wrongdoing, fitting into the "Exclusion" taxonomy.

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