The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Rite Aid Corporation has agreed to settle charges that it wrongfully used facial recognition technology to accuse certain customers of shoplifting in certain stores across the country.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Rite Aid used facial recognition technology in select stores from July 2013 to May 2018 to identify customers who were believed to have shoplifted from the store previously. To do so, Rite Aid used a facial recognition system that compared customers’ images to a database of images of individuals Rite Aid believed to have shoplifted. The images of individuals believed to have shoplifted were generally taken without their consent or knowledge and stored in a way that allowed the facial recognition system to identify them.
Rite Aid’s facial recognition system allegedly generated “person of interest” alerts whenever it identified anyone whose face matched a “shoplifting suspect” in the database. The FTC complaint further alleges that Rite Aid store employees then used the alerts to confront the individuals identified and accuse them of shoplifting.
Rite Aid has agreed to settle the charges and, among other things, to no longer use facial recognition technology in its stores. It must also provide the FTC with an annual report, for the next five years, that provides details on its use of similar technology.
The settlement serves as a reminder to companies that use any form of biometric data to ensure they are taking necessary steps to comply with applicable laws, including those regarding customer privacy. companies must be sure to obtain express consumer consent when collecting biometric data and that consumers are adequately informed of the purposes for which the data is collected and how it will be used.