IPVM – Co-op supermarkets using facial recognition and chinese state-funded technology

Big Brother Watch Team / January 17, 2022

A supermarket chain, which commends itself for its ethical outlook is using live facial recognition and Chinese state-owned technology to monitor its customers.

IPVM has photographed nine Southern Co-op supermarkets, finding limited signage warning customers that facial recognition is being used within the store. One branch had no signage at all, which puts their rollout of the tech at clear odds with ICO guidance.

Silkie Carlo, Director at Big Brother Watch told IPVM: “We have long had concerns about the legality of the Southern Co-op’s use of Orwellian facial recognition surveillance, and this investigation shows the company is giving even the most basic privacy laws little regard. In our view, the Southern Co-op’s surveillance practices are wide open to legal challenge and the given the scale of impact, the ICO should urgently open a high priority investigation.”

“The supermarket is adding customers to secret watchlists with no due process, meaning people can be blacklisted and denied the opportunity to do their food shopping despite being innocent. This is an deeply unethical and frankly chilling way for a business to behave.”

“The Southern Co-op should drop its facial recognition cameras immediately.”

Carlo added that using Hikvision cameras helps make Southern Co-op’s system “the most invasive, unethical and anti-human rights supermarket in Britain”:

“It is highly unlikely that the Co-op’s customers have any idea their local supermarket is spying on them, much less that Chinese state-owned technology is being used to do it, unless through our investigations and media reports.”

“The Southern Co-op’s use of intrusive facial recognition and Hikvision cameras to snoop on shoppers makes them the most invasive, unethical and anti-human rights supermarket in Britain.”

IPVM – UK Grocer Facial Recognition With Hikvision Cameras, GDPR And Ethical Risks Examined