Starting today, many New Zealand supermarkets will be scanning the faces of every customer who walks in.
Over 25 PAK'nSAVE and New World locations in the North Island will trial facial recognition technology (FRT) over the next six months. The hope is that the tech will allow the supermarkets to detect and ward off any criminals that want to enter.
“We've seen a massive increase in retail crime statistics recently,” Julian Benefield, Foodstuffs North Island general manager, told 1News. “In the last quarter of last year alone we saw 4719 incidents. One-third of those are repeat offenders."
Anyone who enters the store will have their face scanned and instantly compared to a database of offender’s faces. If there is a match, staff will receive a notification. If there isn’t, the photo will be deleted within seconds.
To hear what the More FM Breakfast Club have to say on FRT at supermarkets, listen from 13:57 below:
Before today, it was up to staff to recognise any past offenders.
“I can't remember every face that I trespass,” said Ranjeet Singh, a Pak’nSave security team member. “That's the hardest part.”
“People can change their hair, grow a beard. It's really hard."
Benefield says that the impact on customer privacy will be “minimal”, but Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster isn’t fully convinced and will be following the trial very closely.
“When people go to pick up their eggs and milk and bread I don't want their faces scanned unless it's justified that takes place,” he said.
“So what I'm doing is using the powers I have to launch an inquiry into the conduct of the use of FRT as part of this trial by Foodstuffs.”
“I have real questions around the use of FRT as a way to reduce harm and a way of reducing violent behaviour," he added. "So this trial will be very important as a way of gathering evidence."
What do you think - is this a step in the right direction to reduce crime, or is it all a bit 'Black Mirror' for you?