A face recognition system has been secretly deployed by a U.S. retailer for people of color for eight years.

Rite Aid, the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain, secretly deployed facial recognition systems in 200 stores across the U.S., according to a Reuters survey. In an interview with Reuters, the company said they had been using the technology for more than eight years and had only recently stopped.

(Original title: U.S. retailer secretly deployed face recognition system for 8 years, focusing on people of color)

A face recognition system has been secretly deployed by a U.S. retailer for people of color for eight years.

Infographic.

Rite Aid is one of the largest drugstore chains on the East Coast of the United States, headquartered in Pennsylvania, with about 2,500 stores in the United States. The chain sells prescription drugs as well as health care medications, cosmetics, household goods and other goods.

A face recognition system has been secretly deployed by a U.S. retailer for people of color for eight years.

Most are deployed in communities of color.

Reuters said Rite Aid initially defended the company’s use of facial recognition technology to prevent theft and violent crime and not to involve racial discrimination. However, the survey shows that this is not the case. “In communities with the largest percentage of people of color, such as black or Latino residents, Reuters found that people are more than three times more likely to deploy facial recognition systems in stores than in other communities,” the report said. “

Cameras with face recognition are easy to identify and are usually hung from the ceiling near the entrance to the store and in the cosmetic aisle. Most are half a foot long and rectangular, marked with their model “iHD23” or serial number with the vendor’s initial “DC”.

Reuters reported that the cameras matched the face images of customers entering the store with the faces of people that Rite Aid had previously learned about possible criminal activity, and sent alerts to the security guard’s mobile phones if the match was successful. After confirming that the match is accurate, the person will ask the customer to leave the store.

Rite Aid declined to say which stores to deploy the cameras, which feature facial recognition, but a Reuters survey from October 2019 to July 2020 found that 33 of the 75 Rite Aid stores in New York and Los Angeles had the cameras. Although Rite Aid says it will tell customers that their faces are scanned and identified by a camera when they enter the store. But the survey found that at least a third of stores did not have signs.

After Reuters sent the results to the company, Rite Aid issued a statement saying it had turned off all cameras with facial recognition. “This decision is based in part on a broader industry conversation,” says Rite Aid. “

In the eyes of artificial intelligence researchers and lawmakers, the event is of particular concern for the secret sale and use of facial recognition technology, the US technology media The Verge reported.

Previously, companies such as Clearview AI were found to pose a threat to citizens’ privacy by providing facial recognition databases and search tools to a large number of law enforcement and private companies. However, it has emerged that ordinary retail chains such as Rite Aid may also be secretly using facial recognition technology.

A number of retailers piloted.

Rite Aid, which has been plagued by financial losses in recent years, is not the only retailer to adopt or experiment with facial recognition technology.

In 2018, some U.S. retailers have become a coalition to test anti-crime technologies, the Retail Damage Research Council, which sees facial recognition technology as a “promising new tool,” according to CNBC.

“Several retailers have decided to use facial recognition technology,” Read HiSilicon, director of the committee, told Reuters in an interview. We need to use technology to increase sales and reduce losses. “

Home Depot, the second-largest U.S. retailer, told Reuters it had tested face recognition at at least one store to reduce shoplifting, but stopped testing it in 2020. In addition, Menards, a well-known U.S. home improvement retailer, has trialled facial recognition systems at at least 10 locations as of early 2019, according to CNBC. Wal-Mart has also tried the system in a handful of stores.

Bob Oberosler, a former vice president of asset protection at Rite Aid, says using facial recognition technology to identify people with a previous track story of store theft is less risky for employees.

Some cities and businesses are calling off face recognition.

Face recognition technology is currently flawed and has a higher rate of error sings when identifying black people. Over the past few years, U.S. law enforcement and private companies have become increasingly concerned about the unregulated use of facial recognition.

In May 2019, San Francisco became the first city in the world to ban face recognition by banning face recognition by banning city workers from buying and using facial recognition technology. Subsequently, the cities of Oakland and Somerville also passed face recognition bans.

In a San Francisco-based regulation on surveillance technology, the Stop Secret Surveillance Regulations, San Francisco specifically states that “the tendency of facial recognition technology to harm civil rights and civil liberties far outweighs its stated benefits, and that this technology will exacerbate racial inequality and threaten our ability to live without long-term government surveillance.”

After the Floyd incident, the controversy over the use of facial recognition reignited the debate, with several U.S. technology companies publicly abandoning the technology. Amazon and Microsoft have both said they will suspend cooperation with law enforcement on face recognition until Congress passes laws regulating the sale and use of the technology. IBM said it would no longer invest in or develop the technology.

“Technology can increase transparency and help police protect communities, but it must not amplify discrimination and racial inequality.” IBM CEO Krishna said in an open letter to U.S. lawmakers.