Co-op supermarkets have been secretly using live facial recognition cameras in 18 stores across the south of England — and they have no intention to stop. To our knowledge, this is the first supermarket in the UK to permanently install facial recognition.
Let's make it the last. This is a watershed moment for retail surveillance. It's vital we stop Co-op spying now, before other stores follow suit.
To: Mark Smith, CEO Southern Co-operative
Dear Mr Smith
I am writing to ask you to immediately stop using live facial recognition in your stores.
I was alarmed to discover that the Co-op is operating facial recognition surveillance at 18 stores. This is a drastic, disproportionate intrusion of mine and other customers’ privacy.
I have often shopped at the Co-op, but I will no longer be a customer at any Co-op stores if you continue to use facial recognition.
Live facial recognition surveillance has well-evidenced issues with privacy, inaccuracy, and race and gender discrimination.
The technology you are using steals the facial biometric data – information as sensitive as a fingerprint – of every customer entering the store to check them against your privately created watch list. I am concerned that I, my friends or family could be wrongly flagged in your stores, since live facial recognition has produced 93% false positive matches in England. NIST studies have shown that facial recognition accuracy is made even worse by mask-wearing - and given that customers are legally required to wear face coverings in store, false alerts are a higher likelihood than ever.
To discover that a supposedly ethical company such as yours is secretly using this rights-abusive surveillance technology in the UK is deeply chilling. Live facial recognition surveillance is more commonly seen in dictatorships than democracies. Rights groups around the world are fighting facial recognition. To see the Co-op contributing to a watchlist society and a surveillance environment in the UK is deeply disappointing.
This is a serious error of judgement by Southern Co-op. I urge you: please immediately cease all use of live facial recognition in your stores.
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Will you STOP spying on customers with live facial recognition cameras @TheSouthernCoop?
I will no longer shop at Co-op supermarkets if you continue to use this rights-abusive surveillance tech.