Southern Co-op employs facial recognition to tackle crime

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Southern Co-op said it has started using facial recognition technology in 18 of its stores which experience a “higher level” of crime.

The regional co-operative, which operates more than 200 convenience food stores across the south of England, said they have seen an 80 percent increase in assaults and violence against its shop staff so far this year.

The retailer stressed that it respects customer’s rights and does not store images of an individual unless they have been identified as a repeat offender.

“The purpose of our limited and targeted use of facial recognition is to identify when a known repeat offender enters one of our stores. This gives our colleagues time to decide on any action they need to take, for example, asking them to politely leave the premises or notifying police if this is a breach of a banning order,” the retailer said in a statement.

Distinctive signage has been displayed in all the stores that use the technology to make shoppers aware of the development, it added.

Southern Co-op said their facial recognition platform is GDPR compliant and uses only the images of those known to have offended within their premises, including the individuals who have been banned or excluded.

The system neither shares any facial images with the police or any other organisation nor uses images shared from external organizations, the independent co-operative informed.

The retailer confirmed that it has no plans to roll this out across all stores, but did not rule out ‘further’ use in a ‘limited’ manner.

“The number one reason for violence in our stores and within the wider retail sector is when a colleague intervenes after a theft has already taken place. Using facial recognition in this limited way has improved the safety of our store colleagues,” it added.