This Reuters article delivers an in-depth review of how Rite Aid used facial recognition to detect repeat offenders, and probably mistakenly identified innocent individuals. Mistakes included a lack of disclosure, restricting it to low income neighborhoods, using Chinese technology, failing to train staff, and a lack of procedures to catch errors.
This particular system was a straight forward facial recognition system. While detecting criminals in advance is likely a better outcome if it can be done correctly, until then perhaps a system that detects the thefts in progress would be easier for untrained workers to monitor and generate fewer false positives. Here’s more coverage from the Reuters article:
“Over about eight years, the American drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp quietly added facial recognition systems to 200 stores across the United States, in one of the largest rollouts of such technology among retailers in the country, a Reuters investigation found.
In the hearts of New York and metro Los Angeles, Rite Aid deployed the technology in largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods, according to a Reuters analysis. And for more than a year, the retailer used state-of-the-art facial recognition technology from a company with links to China and its authoritarian government.
In telephone and email exchanges with Reuters since February, Rite Aid confirmed the existence and breadth of its facial recognition program. The retailer defended the technology’s use, saying it had nothing to do with race and was intended to deter theft and protect staff and customers from violence. Reuters found no evidence that Rite Aid’s data was sent to China.
Overview by Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group