Frasers Group blasted by MPs over facial recognition software in stores

Frasers Group has been slammed by MPs for its use of live facial recognition cameras in stores.

Around 50 MPs and peers have written to the firm, owned by retail mogul Mike Ashley, to condemn the use of the technology, describing it as “invasive and discriminatory”.

A cross-party collective which includes of David Davis, John McDonnell and Tim Farron, have urged the group to abandon the use of the tech across the country.

Live facial recognition [LFR] technology has well-evidenced issues with privacy, inaccuracy, and race and gender discrimination,” the letter reads.

“LFR inverts the vital democratic principle of suspicion preceding surveillance and treats everyone who passes the camera like a potential criminal.

“The technology obtains the facial biometric data – information as sensitive as a fingerprint – of every customer entering the store to check them against your privately created watchlist.


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“This is the equivalent of performing an identity check on every single customer.”

Privacy groups including Big Brother Watch, Privacy International and Liberty all took part in the coordination of the letter and are co-signatories.

The letter claims that as well as being wrong on principle, facial recognition technology is also “inaccurate and ineffective”.

“To date, 87% of alerts generated by the Metropolitan police’s own live facial recognition system have been inaccurate. The poor accuracy of LFR technology also disproportionately impacts people of colour and women.”

David Davis told The Guardian: “There are no rules: this is open season on privacy. Just this month, there was a case of Tesla employees getting into trouble because they were misusing photographs from inside the cars.

“It’s a good demonstration that even if there are promises made, you can never trust the organisation entirely, because human beings are human beings.”

Salford and Eccles Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, added: “The use of live facial recognition cameras to target customers is an invasive and abusive practice.

“For a hugely wealthy and powerful company to be monitoring people in this way is outrageous. The practice must be halted immediately.”

Sam Tarry, the Labour MP for Ilford South, linked the practise to George Orwell’s 1984.

“Private companies should not be able to reenact dystopian practices more fit for Orwell’s world of 1984 than a free and tolerant society,” he told the Guardian.

While Frasers has not yet commented on the claims, a spokesperson previously said surveillance is carried out to “ensure the safety of our staff and to help prevent theft”.

Two brands operated by Frasers Group, Sports Direct and Flannels, were already using the cameras in at least 27 of its stores in March.

Cameras scan the faces of every shopper and check them against a database of suspected shoplifters.

Once the tech matches the real-time image to faces on the database, it alerts staff who may closely monitor or simply escort the person out of the store.

A retailer may store the face of any visitor as a “subject of interest” and monitor them for up to a year.

No criminal conviction is necessary, and shoppers can be added to the database on suspicion only.

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