Flannels and Sports Direct, which have stores in Sheffield, urged to end use of facial recognition cameras
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Nearly 50 MPs and human rights organisations have teamed up to call on Frasers Group, which also runs House of Fraser, which until recently had a large department store at Meadowhall, to stop using the controversial technology at its stores around the country.
In a joint letter, they describe the use of the surveillance equipment, which they say obtains facial biometric data and compares it to privately created watchlists, as ‘invasive and discriminatory’.
Their letter to the retail group, addressed to its CEO Michael Murray, with owner Mike Ashley copied in, states that live facial recognition (LFR) systems have ‘well-evidenced issues with privacy, inaccuracy, and race and gender discrimination’.
The letter adds: “LFR inverts the vital democratic principle of suspicion preceding surveillance and treats everyone who passes the camera like a potential criminal.”
The letter cites statistics from the human rights organisation Big Brother Watch, which found that 87 per cent of facial recognition ‘matches’ in a Metropolitan Police trial of the controversial technology were in fact shown to have misidentified innocent people.
Mark Johnson, Big Brother Watch’s legal and policy officer, said: “These systems work by adding customers to secret watchlists with no due process, meaning people can be blacklisted and denied the opportunity to enter shops despite being entirely innocent. Live facial recognition has no place on Britain’s high streets. Customers at Flannels, House of Fraser and Sports Direct stores should not expect to be treated like criminals when they go out to the shops.”
It is not clear whether the technology is used at all Flannels, Sports Direct and House of Fraser stores. There are Sports Direct stores on The Moor in Sheffield city centre and at Meadowhall shopping centre. There is a Flannels store at Meadowhall.
The Star previously reported how British Land teamed up with South Yorkshire Police in early 2018 to test facial recognition technology on unsuspecting shoppers at Meadowhall. That trial involved using checking the data for matches with people already on police files.