This is a highly disconcerting development if indeed as portrayed in the article. The use of this tech in public spaces should either be outright banned or very, very heavily regulated and limited to only a few strategic agencies/actors. This is nothing like CCTV. Here are just a few questions that we should be thinking carefully about:
How is the data stored? If not encrypted at rest, then any hacker can get at it. Your face cannot be changed like a password or code. If this becomes common usage, supermarkets, hardly at the forefront of tech security and defence, would become easy targets for criminals to get at data. Please remember that just last week, the US nuclear weapons agency was hacked. Never mind poxy old Co-op.
How is the data transported and used, if at all? If not end-to-end encrypted, then we are screwed like the above.
What is the process of informed consent? As usage of social media sites has shown, merely using a service is not informed consent. And merely using a service does not automatically make it ethical or safe for a company to gather all sorts of irrelevant data.
What are the procedures for an individual to have their data erased from the system? Even Google or Facebook have to allow you that right under GDPR - I bloody hope a supermarket would be forced to as well.
What legal limits are there or should there be on a supermarket to distribute the data or use it for other purposes e.g. being tracked across different shops in the neighbourhood for advertisement purposes? It is none of Co-op’s business where else I go or what I do outside of their shops, so in this horrid new world they’re proposing, what mechanisms are available to me to ensure they never know?
Is this the most efficient and effective way to deal with shoplifters? And even if yes, do we care enough about some supermarket’s profits to compromise our liberty like this? There has been zero public discussion about whether there are less invasive means of dealing with this same problem or whether this is a problem worth sacrificing our rights for. So this seems like a significant overreach.
What does it mean for the rights of the individual to have their face stored for being ‘suspected’? There should be some powers to protect your private property, but we need to decide as a society what the limits of those powers should be. Someone doesn’t lose all their rights just because they’re in my house. So let’s discuss whether a supermarket should be able to breach someone’s privacy rights just because that person is buying milk in a privately owned building.
Do we want a society where the expansion of tech is primarily to serve corporations rather than us citizens or is perhaps even at the expense of us citizens? Let’s have a thorough public debate about this question before we get comfortable with corporations, never mind supermarkets, mass-gathering our data like that. Let’s not just allow this to happen without us exploring together the key implications for ourselves and our society.
We all need to become a lot more educated about what this all means. I recommend not just tuning out or looking for the nearest seeming analogy (e.g. CCTV), but instead asking some probing questions to determine if you think such developments will make society your life, your community, and your future better or worse. A podcast like this one is a good place to start: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/effs-how-to-fix-the-internet/id1539719568?i=1000500983312 Or if you prefer reading, try “Weapons of Math Destruction” by Cathy O’Neil: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28186015-weapons-of-math-destruction