BBC – Big Brother Watch files legal challenge with the ICO against Southern Co-op’s use of facial recognition systems

Big Brother Watch Team / July 26, 2022

Big Brother Watch has lodged a legal complaint against the Southern Co-op chain with the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding their use of facial recognition technology.

The legal challenge addresses the violation of data protection laws as a result of the use of these systems, currently deployed in 35 Co-op locations. The methods in which the biometric data collected is processed are disproportionate to the purpose for processing cited, to deter crime.

Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said:

“The supermarket is adding customers to secret watch-lists with no due process, meaning shoppers can be spied on, blacklisted across multiple stores and denied food shopping despite being entirely innocent. This is a deeply unethical and a frankly chilling way for any business to behave.”

Big Brother Watch’s complaint details that these systems do “not bring serious criminals to justice… it does not protect the public from harm in any meaningful way,” The measure is “Orwellian in the extreme”, and people could end up on a watch-list without them being aware of this at all.

“At best, it displaces crime, empowering individual businesses to keep ‘undesirables’ out of their stores and move them elsewhere.”

The Southern Co-op chain reported that they “take (their) responsibilities around the use of facial recognition extremely seriously and work hard to balance (their) customers’ rights with the need to protect (their) 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.”

BBC – Convenience store spy cameras face legal challenge

Other media reports: