1 Dec 2022

Foodstuffs stores to trial new facial recognition cameras

7:57 am on 1 December 2022
Close-up detail of a woman shopping in a supermarket

About 30 Foodstuffs stores will be in the new trial. File photo Photo: 123RF

Foodstuffs stores already using facial recognition cameras will turn them off in the lead-up to a new trial.

The 320-store cooperative supermarket group has just under a tenth of stores, 29, using the technology already.

They were installed in response to rising crime. But the stores will turn that off, and new facial recognition systems will be brought in for the trial.

"As of this week, all stores using existing facial recognition technology solutions have agreed to disable their systems while stores review their crime prevention and safety measures," spokesperson Emma Wooster said.

"The stores participating in our trial will be using a new system when the trial commences in the near future."

About 30 stores will be in the trial but it could not yet say just which ones. Foodstuffs owns the supermarkets Pak'nSave, New World and Four Square.

In a statement, Wooster said the group was doing this to tackle rising crime, repeat offenders and boost staff and shopper safety.

It is common for facial technology systems to compare shots of people's faces with large image databases, say, of driver licences or passports.

But Foodstuffs would not be using a third-party database, Wooster said.

Instead, it would store photos of anyone trespassed from a store for up to two years, to match against. Any other data collected by the cameras would be purged after five days.

It was consulting with the Privacy Commissioner, and all stores using the tech would have signs up.

In the United Kingdom, a supermarket group is facing legal action from a civil rights group over recent moves to install facial recognition in 35 stores in southern England.

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