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Is shoplifting prevention technology infringing on civil rights?

| Jul 16, 2021 | Theft & Property Crimes

It is understandable that retailers want to stop people from taking things from their stores without paying. However, many feel they are going too far and infringing people’s civil liberties in the process.

The use of facial recognition in stores and malls is rising. Yet, retailers are not only using it on those who steal. They are using it on everyone.

How do stores use facial recognition technology?

A recent report by civil rights groups found stores use facial recognition in several ways:

  • To prevent specific people from entering their store: A mall could have a list of people caught or suspected of stealing and stop them before they enter.
  • To alert staff to high spenders about to enter: Employees can take extra care of these customers to encourage them to spend more.
  • To alert security to the presence of known shoplifters: Some stores choose to let people enter, then keep an eye on them, hoping to catch them in the act.
  • To share data with law enforcement agencies: Big brother really is watching you and everyone else.
  • To track staff and shopper movement and behavior: This can be twofold — to check people are not stealing or to work out how to get them to spend more.

You might be upset that you can no longer walk about freely and that stores are spying on you and plotting to get more money out of you. However, aside from these infringements on your civil liberties, facial recognition in stores can also have serious criminal consequences for innocent people.

The problem is that the technology often gets it wrong. It can misread the face of someone else who is shoplifting and send a message to the police that it has caught you shoplifting. You could later get arrested, and charged with theft, despite not being anywhere near the store when the crime was committed. If the police wrongly arrest you for theft, it is crucial to understand your legal options.