Kiwi supermarket chain admits facial recognition usage
14 May 2018 15:28 GMT

Privacy advocates in New Zealand have complained after it emerged that the country's largest supermarket company,  Foodstuffs NZ, had quietly rolled out facial recognition CCTV.

A man was mistakenly identified as a shoplifter amid warnings from the Privacy Commissioner about the use of the covert surveillance technique, reported a local newspaper.

The man was allegedly misidentified due to human error, and Foodstuffs NZ claimed facial recognition was not used in the South Island.

However, the Otago Daily Times can reveal a security system that "bridges the gap between businesses and the police'' is now used at the Centre City New World in Dunedin, among other South Island stores.

Dunedin mechanic Daniel Ryan said he was recently taken aside by staff shortly after entering the Centre City New World in Great King St, owned by Foodstuffs.

He alleged he was taken into a side room and questioned by staff, who said he had been identified as a known shoplifter.

Ryan said the staff then realised he had been mis-identified and he received an apology from the company.

While he appreciated the apology, the experience left him feeling humiliated.

"It's quite bruising to be shuffled off to the side.''

Foodstuffs head of external relations Antoinette Laird said "human error'' had led to
Ryan being mistakenly identified as a shoplifter.

Asked if Centre City New World was using a facial recognition surveillance system, Ms Laird said the technology was used in some of its stores, but none in Dunedin.

"A handful of stores in the North Island have facial recognition CCTV technology as part of their security system.

"We cannot provide specific store detail.''

Facial recognition technology is widely used by retailers overseas.

The Guardian has reported that 59 per cent of fashion retailers in the United Kingdom use facial tracking, which captured the faces of shoppers, before cross-referencing their biometric data with known criminals.

The technology is also prevalent in China, where local governments use it to track people in public places.