Tesco comes under fire over data collection claims

A civil liberties group has threatened to take grocery giant Tesco to court in a dispute over data collection, the Financial Times reported.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) wrote a letter to Tesco CEO Ken Murphy, saying it “will be obliged to take action if Tesco extends to any European Economic Area country the practice of making access to stores conditional on subscription to its loyalty scheme”.

It said that doing so “infringes the principle of data minimisation” set out in both the EU’s general data protection regulation and the UK equivalent.

The complaint relates to Tesco’s GetGo checkout-free store in London, which uses tech from Trigo to acknowledge what customers have lifted off shelves and put into baskets, before charging them for the items.

In order to make payments at the store, customers must have a Tesco app and a Clubcard account.

This means that Tesco receives vast quantities of data on customers’ purchasing choices.

“If there is not a need for you to have or use customer data then you cannot,” said Johnny Ryan, senior fellow at the ICCL told the Financial Times. “The need has to be proportionate”.

According to law firm Ropes & Gray representative Edward Machin said that using a checkout-free store “requires some way of ensuring payment and it’s not unreasonable or unlawful in all cases for that to be done through technology or a Clubcard account”.

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Tesco rival Sainsbury’s, which also has a checkout-free store in close proximity to that of Tesco’s, said its customers do not need a loyalty card in order to access the store.

Grocery newcomer Amazon, which has 19 Amazon Fresh stores in the UK using its Just Walk Out technology, also requires customers to download the Amazon app in order to enter the shop.

Aldi on the contrary does not have a loyalty scheme needed for shoppers to enter its checkout-free store in Greenwich.

Adam Rose from Mishcon de Reya told the Financial Times that the legal arguments were more complex when the customer is tracked within the store. “That type of processing . . . involves a much higher threshold to be legally compliant,” he said.

Tesco hit back at the claims by saying that the technology used tracks customers’ body movements and not by recognising faces.

It also said that visual data is not stored or saved.

The UK’s largest grocer hopes to open more stores with a mixture of unmanned tills and checkout-free tech next year.



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