Saturday, June 22, 2024

Foodstuffs North Island trials facial recognition

New Zealand’s Foodstuffs North Island has started trialling the use of facial recognition (FR) as part of its ongoing fight against retail crime.

The trial is taking place in up to 25 North Island stores and is currently intended to run for up to six months.

“Everyone has the right to a safe working environment and a safe place to buy their groceries,” says Foodstuffs North Island Chief Executive Chris Quin. “This trial of FR in our stores is part of our commitment to keeping our teams and customers safe.

“Sadly, retail crime is a growing problem, here and overseas. Our North Island stores recorded 4719 incidents in the October-December quarter of 2023 alone. That’s 34% more than the 3510 recorded in the previous quarter. Shockingly, one of our security team was stabbed recently and our people are being punched, kicked, bitten and spat at. We’re seeing over 14 serious incidents a week, including an average of two assaults.

“All too often it’s the same people, coming back to our stores despite having already been trespassed, committing more crime, and often putting our team members and customers at risk of abuse and violence.

“We have a moral and legal duty to make our stores as safe as possible for our teams and customers, and we think FR has the potential to help by identifying repeat offenders when they try to come back into our stores.”

According to Mr Quin, all images in the FR system will be “instantly deleted” unless a person has committed a crime, has been aggressive, violent or threatening towards the retailer’s team members or customers, or has actively assisted in such harmful behaviour.

“The trial is important because we hope to establish if FR will help keep our people and customers safe without compromising their privacy,” he says.

“When preparing the trial, we’ve been very thorough in ensuring we respect the privacy of our customers, including having a specialist, independent organisation design and review the trial – they’ll also evaluate the results.

“We’ve also engaged with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure they’re well briefed and aware of how the trial will work.”

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