Facial Recognition Tech Now Capable Of Getting You Kicked Out Of The Mall

from the remember-malls,-bart? dept

Facial recognition tech continues it kudzu-like growth. It’s not just government contractors providing tech for law enforcement and security agencies. It’s also making inroads in the private sector — a place where there’s even less oversight of its use.

Cameras everywhere have long been part of retailers’ operations. But retailers are now adding third party facial recognition software to the mix, further increasing the chance innocent people will be punished for software screw-ups.

[W]ith facial recognition, getting caught in one store could mean a digital record of your face is shared across the country. Stores are already using the technology for security purposes and can share that data — meaning that if one store considers you a threat, every business in that network could come to the same conclusion.

One mistake could mean never being able to shop again.

Kogniz, the company behind one strain of shopper-oriented facial recognition tech, says no retailers are currently sharing data and recordings with other retailers. At this point (if Kogniz is to be believed), retailers are still operating within their own silos. But that could change. And it could change without notice. There’s nothing in place legislation-wise that regulates this market. The government isn’t keeping an eye on these developments, leaving it up to companies to self-regulate. They’ve responded by doing nothing.

Without any legal restrictions, companies can use facial recognition without limits. That means being able to log people’s faces without telling customers their data is being collected.

Two facial recognition providers told CNET that they don’t check on their customers to make sure they’re using the data properly. There are no laws requiring them to.

This means there’s no baseline for accuracy and no limits on sharing or retention. This also means law enforcement can ask to be added to the “sharing” list without running afoul of legal restrictions. False positives could result in bans and/or visits from local law enforcement. One Kogniz client is already sharing its login with local law enforcement, ensuring the government gets pinged every time the system registers a hit.

Even the companies providing this tech directly to government agencies are unconcerned about how it’s used.

Gemalto, a digital security company, has been providing facial recognition to the Department of Homeland Security, which uses it at US exits to log foreign visitors leaving the country.

[…]

“Once the customer has it, they’re going to operate with the standards that they define,” said Neville Pattinson, Gemalto’s senior vice president for government programs. “It’s not our responsibility to have involvement past the point of delivery.”

Fair enough. But the federal government has also decided they need to do almost nothing. Self-regulation isn’t working any better in the public sector. That’s why the EFF and ACLU are pushing for someone — anyone — to start acting like the adults in the room. Fortunately, a handful of local governments are stepping into the legislative void.

In late January, San Francisco supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed legislation to completely ban the city’s government agencies from using facial recognition. State lawmakers across the US have suggested similar legislation, like in Washington and Massachusetts.

This is a good step forward, if extremely geographically-limited. Tech development has always moved faster than the government. But that excuse is pretty hollow when it comes to facial recognition tech. The government has been an aggressive early adopter. The legislators are late to the party, but at least they’re finally starting to arrive.

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Companies: gemalto, kogniz

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Comments on “Facial Recognition Tech Now Capable Of Getting You Kicked Out Of The Mall”

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58 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Until

When they start getting false positives recognizing influential individuals and tossing them out of some store, and then those individuals get on Facebook and/or Twitter and lets the community and all their friends, and their friends friends, and their local relatives know about it, things will start to change. Think about what this might do to a national chain that starts to get these types of reactions in multiple locals. Those stores may have some very difficult times. It will take a lot more than some coupons and apologies to overcome such accusations.

I understand stores wanting to reduce their shrinkage (theft whether by the public or employees or vendors) it still seems to me that they would be better off spending some money on security in the form of humans doing discrete and appropriately judgmental surveillance (interview the suspect before you toss them out without regard), rather than wholesale let the tech do the job for you. The tech solution might look cheaper than the humans, but when they add the cost of lost sales to the formula it might be different.

Anonmylous says:

Re: Until

Nope, it won’t take that, it’ll take few lawyers with a serious case of "This might actually work cha-ching" to start laying in Libel lawsuits against smaller chains to get put the rest on notice this is an incredibly STUPID idea. A lot of stores choose not to pursue charges on shoplifters. choosing instead to ban and if they return press felony trespassing charges instead. They generally don’t want people thinking a lot of thieves hit their shops because that’s bad PR, people will avoid the place. So, no conviction gets attached to the shoplifting incident. They also tend not to store video for years and years either, that gets expensive. So you will have pictures of faces in this database, with unsubstantiated stories attached within 6 months of going live. Libel!

This is why such a database still does not exist. One could easily scrape county and city jail records daily and assemble a list of arrestees and the charges, cherry pick shoplifting and a few other charges to assemble a list, and then sell that database to businesses. No one does it because those are not convictions either and while its probably not libel, its shady AF enough no business would want to get caught using such a database.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Until

"This is why such a database still does not exist. One could easily scrape county and city jail records daily and assemble a list of arrestees and the charges, cherry pick shoplifting and a few other charges to assemble a list, and then sell that database to businesses. No one does it because those are not convictions either and while its probably not libel, its shady AF enough no business would want to get caught using such a database."

^This.

"Facial recognition technology" is just another example of how people can be persuaded that a method which has never worked suddenly will because of a new name and some bling.

It’s bad enough when the false positive percentage is randomly chosen from innocent mall goers, but the truly chilling part will be when it’s applied to a number volume of, say, 350 million US citizens. Oh, wait, we can already guess how that’ll pan out given how the data collation using actual facts ended up.

https://www.wired.com/2005/09/nun-terrorized-by-terror-watch/

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Until

When they start getting false positives recognizing influential individuals and tossing them out of some store

I agree that the tech needs to be improved so that it’s reliable before being used in this fashion, but once it is, I have no problem with it being used to blacklist thieves from stores.

Given the California government’s inexplicable obsession with keeping people out of prison, regardless of how much they deserve to be there, there is almost no consequence for misdemeanor theft from a business here anymore. Even when the person is caught and arrested, he/she is literally walked in the front of the police station and out the back, barely stopping long enough to be photographed and printed.

Since businesses get no help from the government when it comes to theft anymore, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with store owners saying, "You steal from us, you’re no longer welcome on any of our properties." And if this tech gives them the ability to enforce that, then more power to them.

But it needs to actually work right for it to be effective.

Kitsune106 says:

Re: Re: Until

I really hope that the facial databases are secured strongly. Since here is a question. If it’s shown that the database can be accessed and altered, would that not call into doubt the match?

Like, what is chain of evidence of photo matching for things not stored in a secured lab? As given th broken IoT, there is a bigger risk of a vulnerable opening. And given people trust the computer over their own eyes (the school match of the parent, was not a match visually but since computer had said, had to assume worst), well…..

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Until

Like, what is chain of evidence of photo matching for things not stored in a secured lab?

Why does there need to be a "chain of evidence" (I assume you’re actually referring to "chain of custody")?

We’re not talking about a court of law here. We’re talking about Macy’s deciding who they want on their property and who they don’t. There’s no requirement for a private property owner to maintain a chain of custody for anything before deciding to PNG someone.

It’s curious to me that the same people who constantly rail against anyone who complains about social media censorship with "you don’t have the right to dictate to a private business who they must tolerate on their platforms" now want "oversight" over private business’ use of facial-rec technology when they decide who they want in their stores.

I’ve been reliably informed in the most smug and condescending ways possible by the commenters here that a private business can kick you off its internet platform for any reason it likes. Well, so can the convenience store down the street.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Until

"Given the California government’s inexplicable obsession with keeping people out of prison, regardless of how much they deserve to be there…"

"Inexplicable"…?

A year of incarceration costs the stats – and thus the taxpayer – around $30k or more.
Every court case adds up to 30k to that.

So that thief you were talking about has to run up damages well over 50k USD before it’s remotely cost-effective to put him behind bars. In fact, the petty thief who racked up a total of 500 bucks in pilfering isn’t worth booking beyond having a pair of officers giving him a hard time.

And the reason that California is trying to get out of incarcerating people is because the federal government actually had to bail California out of bankruptcy over – law enforcement/penitentiary costs. It’s not hard to explain, unless you personally think it’s OK to spend a 100 US dollars to punish someone for lifting goods worth 1 US dollar.

"I agree that the tech needs to be improved so that it’s reliable before being used in this fashion, but once it is, I have no problem with it being used to blacklist thieves from stores."

The main issue is that the tech will never be reliable enough. With a 1% error rate it will not only fail to identify 1 out of a hundred crooks. It will also wrongly identify 1 out of a 100 perfectly innocent people as a criminal.

Bad enough where this can get someone banned at the door -and keep getting banned, because telling an algorithm it’s wrong is…hard.

Try using this in an airport where facial recognition tech has a 1% chance of wrongly identifying every person passing through as a shoot-on-sight terrorist, meaning that the first responder is a trigger-happy SWAT team?

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "regardless of how much they deserve to be there"

No human being deserves to be in a California prison

So what would you do with Charles Manson, then? Or William Bonin, the "Freeway Killer" who raped and murdered 21 women. Or Richard Ramírez. "the Night Stalker", a Los Angeles serial killer, serial rapist, kidnapper, child molester, and burglar.

Just shake your scolding finger at them and say, "Behave"?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

TIL malls are still a thing.

We’ll keep the ‘bad people’ out!!!
They totally won’t just shop online or the last few other store not using questionable tech in a fantasy of solving all the problems facing dinosaurs who are standing in the tar & are SURE the tar won’t suck them down if they pay this little bird who claims he can lift them out for the right price.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Within their own silos" is still a problem

Even if they don’t share data with competitors, the "silo" of a large chain could include thousands of stores with different branding. Considering that over 20 million Americans officially live in "food deserts," there must also be a lot of places that would turn into food deserts if one chain became inaccessible. So, if you got banned from, say, Walmart, you might find the only practical solution is to wait for the kind of weather where a balaclava won’t raise suspicion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Within their own silos" is still a problem

You know why there are so-called Food Deserts? Because of a huge shoplifting problem. Some people acting like animals. It’s just not worth having a business in that type of area.

Maybe this Camera system, while not 100% right, will help to get some businesses to come back as you can better keep out the known Shoplifters. People do it to themselves with their behavior and things have to change, adjust because of that.

So if you can have fewer Food Deserts because of a system like this, I’m all for it. Hopefully, all the small businesses in the area link together to keep these people out of everyone’s stores.

JustMe (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Within their own silos" is still a problem

Please provide proof that shoplifting is the problem because I dispute your assertion. None of these sources support your position. In fact, transportion (or lack of it) seems to be the primary issue, coupled with lack of infrastructure to continually provision fresh foods.

https://www.conservationfund.org/projects/tackling-food-deserts-in-michigan
https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/FoodDesert.html
http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts
https://www.thesouthend.wayne.edu/features/article_ea5c3c08-46fd-11e8-b44a-bb0dd1413b54.html
https://socialwork.tulane.edu/blog/food-deserts-in-america
https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/documentation/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208016

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Within their own silos" is still a problem

yeah right…it’s not the animals fault the stores can’t keep open.

This may be anecdotal but still true. Local food store chain. Actually had stores in the "bad" parts of town. Management had to tear out the restrooms and re do them all in stainless steel with all the fixtures built in just like a prison cell.

It was cheaper to redo all the bathrooms than to keep repairing the damage. Plus to clean them it just took a hose to wash it all down the drain.

Ever hear the saying that a good dog don’t crap in it’s own yard?

Ever see a grocery store having to have uniform armed security? Or a major big box store hiring off duty LEOs for armed security?

But of course it’s never a problem caused by the people that shop there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Within their own silos" is still a problem

“yeah right…it’s not the animals fault the stores can’t keep open”

See bro that’s where your argument did a sieg Heil and took a shit on itself.

One question bro:

Do you spend an inordinate amount of time saying a variant of the phrase “I’m not racist, but…”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Within their own silos" is still a problem

Maybe this Camera system, while not 100% right, will help to get some businesses to come back as you can better keep out the known Shoplifters.

That raises the related problems that these systems have no appeal process and no parole. You could be banned for life for something you did as a kid, or for something you didn’t do.

Shoplifting might be a relevant factor for urban food deserts, but not likely for rural ones. Rural areas just don’t have the population density to support several competitors near each person.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Shoplifting in grocers

Inventory control is a super common problem in brick and mortar stores, but usually affects the bottom line so minimally that it’s written off as a business expense. Security is light, and they watch for people doing it red-handed.

If you have a shoplifting spike in a grocery that means too many people are going hungry. Grocers commonly give day-old food to those hard on their luck (they throw out edible-but-not-sellable food daily anyway). If there’s an abundance of hungry people, then it’s time for a church or non profit to open a mission or food bank or soup kitchen.

Granted, these methods might be unpopular under the current administration.

Theft of food commonly falls under a necessity defense (much like assault in self defense) and it’s hard to even get into jail for stealing food. Police are known to just release hungry transients at the precinct.

LOL says:

Well this should help get people back into the mall and out of online shopping, shouldn’t it?

Our local shopping mall just spent a fortune on redoing the mall and making it nice. Then they started charging for parking near the mall, with "tiered premium spaces" selling for $8, "standard premium spaces" selling for $3 and valet parking selling for $10.

If you want free parking, you get to go out to Siberia.

Unsurprisingly, the mall is deserted and a major tenant has announced they’re closing up shop.

Deploying this tech on top of it should shave off a few more shoppers and result in more stores pulling out.

For an industry that’s supposed to be giving customers what they want, retailers sure are incompetent. No wonder they’re getting destroyed by e-commerce companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is way too wide open to being abused for things like consumerist.com/2010/11/22/blacklisted-from-motel-6-for-complaining-about-moldy-shower-curtain/ or http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Renters-find-they-re-blacklisted-over-past-2767729.php

Complain about how you’re treated, get added to the naughty list. Of course, if this were consumers adding businesses to the naughty list, then the lawyers and the "reputational management" brigade would be out in full force to make the bad review go away.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The problem is landlords who abuse both eviction process (they file, they "win"), AND future landlords who enforce the blacklist, usually in violation of every principle against retaliation. At least tenants who give bad reviews to landlords who turn them down can now link to an article like that for more credibility.

Where are these people supposed to go if NO ONE rents to them? Government should step in as a "landlord of last resort" when someone has the money to pay market rent but this (or anything else) is keeping them from doing so. Perhaps some enterprising landlord can see through this and find otherwise reliable tenants, or some store can take the business of these blacklisted customers?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I just recieved my section 8 and am gonna lose my assistance because im red flagged through the facial recognition system. Never been in trouble 42 years old single mom and labled for absolutely nothing. Wrong wrong. Drones follow me.. Helicopters just sit at a stand still at times over me. People target me and for what?? This is bullshit and before judging anyone 99% should never be mislead with close enough. Facts should always stand 100.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh things like this would never happen…
we’d never see legislatures put forward bills to allow schools to blacklist kids if they get suspended for an offense…

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2019/04/01/arizona-legislation-would-blacklist-suspended-students-other-schools/3312436002/

Oh wait…
You got caught vaping, no more school for you!!!!!

ANON says:

Re: Blacklist

Yes, no surprise. Toronto landlords started a blacklist decades ago – the internet just made it easier. But along with actual non-paying tenants, it was easy for a vindictive landlord to blacklist anyone who made them live up to their obligations.

The No-Fly list was supposed to be to keep people who might be a threat to airlines from getting on board – instead it turned into a tool to block anyone and everyone who caused difficulty for authorities or even looked remotely suspicious. When Cat Stevens or some 2-year-old is banned from flying you know there’s a problem. When the FBI uses the threat of no-fly to attempt to coerce people into becoming informants for their mosque or circle of friends, you know it’s gone from safety tool to abuse tool.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Surveillance to track spending...

I am a veteran of getting kicked out of Gamestop by cantankerous store clerks overly accustomed to broke kids ogling the games they couldn’t afford. I wasn’t quite the Gamestop market anyway.

I’d learn in my thirties from a girlfriend that this antagonistic relationship wasn’t unique to gamer nerds and tech clerks, but was cranked up to eleven in upscale department stores like Neiman Marcus or Saks or Bloomingdales. She liked to walk through them and take in the opulence, and look around for absurd sales (which occurred commonly contrary to intuition), but the booth clerks hated us commoners. Much of their income was based on commission, which meant they only had time and energy for whales who could spend money by the thousands.

It’s not going to be long before facial recognition tech is used to augment their assessment. No longer will these salesfolk need to assess us by mannerisms and make of our shoes. Instead people will be identified as they walk in the door, and they’ll know instantly if someone spent $20K at Bergdorf Goodman over last year, or if someone’s come into Barneys twelve times over the last six months, never buying a thing.

Because these projects always creep.

And if your face is on ICE’s migrant list, the security room will call them right away to report you.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Surveillance to track spending...

"And if your face is on ICE’s migrant list, the security room will call them right away to report you."

Oh, it gets better. The paradox of false positives guarantees that if the facial recognition tech has just a 1% error margin, every time you get in front of a camera the automated searches for child abusers, terrorist suspects, and dangerous drug dealers each have 1/100 chances of calling a SWAT team in on your location with a brief mission statement of "ALERT! homicidal maniac on the shoot-on-sight list spotted right here!".

As far as I have read not a single facial recognition system project even dreams of reducing the error margin to 1%.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Surveillance to track spending...

I lack the will to look for it atm, but there is a recent story (within a year) about a parent being denied entry to a school event for his kids b/c facial rec claimed he was a pedophile on the list & they called the cops… even after being cleared they still, out of an abundance of caution, denied him entry. IIRC (95% certainty on the points)

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Surveillance to track spending...

"I lack the will to look for it atm, but there is a recent story (within a year) about a parent being denied entry to a school event for his kids b/c facial rec claimed he was a pedophile on the list & they called the cops… even after being cleared they still, out of an abundance of caution, denied him entry."

There’s plenty of similar cases. There was that one about the nun who ended up on a no-fly list and never could get off it since the algorithm kept re-flagging her.

What facial recognition tech really means is, for innocent people, "You really shouldn’t be born with THAT face and color".
And for criminals aware that facial recognition tech is used, a few silicon inlays and makeup now means LESS risk that they, rather than their innocent not-really-lookalike gets caught.

People who dont know tech keep thinking it’s the answer to every problem. And that makes things hard for those of us who know tech and can confidently say "No, this is apt to make the current problem WORSE".

TRX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Surveillance to track spending...

Better than that; the second-most wanted terrorist in the world walks around with my face. Though we’re (as far as I know) of completely different racial and national origin, the genetic dice rolled snake eyes.

I’m the elder by about two months. It’s MY face, dammit!

Someday I’m going to walk into some airport or Federal building, the computers will go "TILT!", and jackbooted thugs will come swarming my way, thinking they have just made the arrest of their careers…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Surveillance to track spending...

"Someday I’m going to walk into some airport or Federal building, the computers will go "TILT!", and jackbooted thugs will come swarming my way, thinking they have just made the arrest of their careers…"

Second-most wanted terrorist?

Scratch "arrest". If you’re toting a backpack or heavy clothing the first thing that will happen is a sniper puts a bullet between your eyes before you can detonate the presumptive bomb you’re carrying.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Surveillance to track spending...

I never have rolled into a store only to be ignored by staff (I’m sorry I’m shopping, I ain’t wearing a suit or dressing up).
The first staffer to treat me like a human gets shocked that yes, despite the jeans I know what I want and can afford it.

I’ve never given a flight attendant the stink eye after she looks me over and thinks I must be lost looking for my seat in 1st class & asks to see my ticket… then immediately wants to be super nice to me.

I’ve never walked onto a used car lot & told the salesman I have no interest in this model b/c I know it has serious issues. 3rd or 4th time they show me the same model steering me away from things I want to look at, that they assume are out of my price range, I find a new drone to deal with… once they pissed me off enough I walked into to the new sales division & asked a salesman who’d waited on relatives does he sell off the used lot & want to make a commission – simple rules don’t show me this model. Gee he showed me the cars I wanted to look at, didn’t push that model, and the look on the face of the used salesmen when I paid cash in full.

Its fun screwing with peoples expectations, they size you up and think they know the whole story… see also: every troll here who comes for me b/c of my trendy avatar.

faceless_and_nameless says:

The lost opportunity

What seems obvious to me is that facial recognition, especially lame and error prone recognition, is a boon to the ID theft community- simply scan the data base for a face like your own, and shazzam, you have the target for your next stolen ID. It won’t take much of this to sour many of us on the tech.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: We

"We should all become Muslim women and wear a niqab"

You would WANT to be profiled in, I assume, the US, in an NSA database with a record which would interpret your new self as a "muslim extremist apostate with gender identity problems"?

I’ll give you an alternative: Wrap your face in bandages until not a single inch of skin shows and if asked just keep saying you had a terrible accident.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Anonymity counters to Facial Recognition

"Juggalo paint (and probably KISS paint) has proven to be super-effective against facial recognition devices."

And that right there should have settled the debate. Criminals who know they’re wanted and know there’s facial recognition tech out there will use any of a thousand ways to remove or alter key markers with makeup.

Meaning they are now LESS likely to be identified as the shoot-on-sight terrorist or gangbanger than friendly old Tom The Shoe Salesman’s Clerk About To Have The Biggest And Last Surprise Of His Life Thanks To A .30-06 Round Courtesy Of Your Friendly Neighborhood SWAT Team Member.

What sort of frightens me is that some country will roll out this type of tech and when the first few dead roll in there’s to much face-saving to do for anyone to dare roll it right the fuck back out again.

John85851 (profile) says:

Yep, this'll get people to shop more at the mall

I can imagine the thinking goes something like this:
Sir, we’re losing more sales to online stores every quarter. How do we make the customer shopping experience better?
I know, let’s add facial recognition software and kick out anyone who gets flagged, even if they didn’t do anything. I’m sure they won’t tell anyone on social media about their experience.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m particularly non-plussed with cameras at check-out stands. The primary data collection at this point does not catch shoplifters or similar customer issues, these are designed to capture a facial print paired to a payment method. The payment method is a unique identifier that can then easily pair that facial print with other sources of data, I’m not ok with that. My likeness does not belong to a retailer to sell — I go to great pains to avoid submission of facial identification in my use of online services. What bothers me most is I see no notice at these checkout services indicating what information is collected, and what the company does with it.

Biswa Rao says:

Doesn't have to panic

We have done one such solution for governing bodies where the surveillance system was optimized using facial recognition features and reference is here: https://www.zerone-consulting.com/Case-Study/Face-Recognition-Supports-Crime-Prevention.html

Many are actually not implementing it the way it should be. Highly secure areas are suppose to have high accuracy factored detection and recognition. It is very disheartening when you see people spreading fake news regarding the new technologies which is going to help the people only. Definitely the responsible bodies which implement the face recognition will be blindly depending on it. They will also have a secondary or alternative to fix issues regarding security aspect other than the new technology.

Again, use of the technology with personal with lesser knowledge is a problem but again the solution for it is that the institute which is responsible should have their analysis plan sorted out, than just believing blindly to the results given by the system.

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