LP Magazine

SEP-OCT 2018

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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AN ABOUT-FACE FOR LP? Times have changed, however. False alerts were not an issue for one major retailer that ran a test of FRT in several big-box stores, according to its project lead on the test. "We had zero false positives, 100 percent accuracy. And that was great. We were hoping it would be close to that, but the system exceeded expectations. There were no false promises. That was actually the best part of that test," he said. Shifting Sentiments Although retail leaders may be impressed by how the technology has progressed, concern over consumer reaction is a significant counterweight as they gauge whether to forge ahead. "Retailers are scared of the public's perception," Palmer believes. According to its test project leader, media attacks on companies over privacy issues filtered into the big-box retailer's decision not to widely implement FRT. He added that the case for the technology would be easier to make if it weren't for a residual sense of risk from public sentiment and negative brand impact. Moreover, when public attitudes are the issue, criticism can take a toll whether or not it's earned. Privacy advocates generate a lot of press when they float potential horror stories associated with the collection of biometric data, so the potential of bad press and harm to a retail brand, even if it's abstract, surely acts as a drag on FRT adoption by retailers. In response, some vendors are taking steps to educate the public, such as using terms like "matching" instead of "recognition." This may help promote the fact that just because a system can recognize that an individual was previously in a store does not necessarily mean the system knows who you are. Time, however, is probably the surest answer to shoppers' skittishness. Consumers have repeatedly shown willingness to trade privacy for convenience and broadly participate on platforms that track where they go and what they do—even after privacy snafus come to light. "The obstacle of public perception [of FRT] is something that could be overcome, I think. There is already a significant part of the population that is comfortable being tracked," said Palmer, who recalled that initial outcry over public uses of video surveillance waned over time and then largely disappeared. The same, he thinks, could eventually happen with FRT. The "ick" factor is likely to dissipate and may do so quickly if past consumer behavior is a good indicator. Still, it's not gone just yet, according to data on consumer sentiment. For example, at the start of 2018, FaceFirst surveyed consumers about whether they'd be willing to purchase a device with facial recognition to help protect their privacy, and half said they would not buy a device containing that feature. It's easy to think that consumers, currently, might be no more favorable to retail stores using the technology for theft prevention. Regulatory Roadblocks? From a privacy perspective, facial feature matching and other identification technologies can operate as opt-in technologies, flagging only people who commit an offense, and even then, no personal identifying information needs to be maintained, just a picture with its own unique number and time, date, and location. "It is nothing more than you have from CCTV, and less, because that is actually video of the whole time a person is in a store," said Fleischman. Rieger said you can't gain access to law enforcement databases, but that nothing prevents a retailer from creating its own. "Traditionally, LP would bust a guy, take a picture of his license, develop a case log, and take his picture. And nothing prevents LP from doing this same thing enterprise-wide with the help of technology." He added that nothing prohibits a retailer from then using that data to identify when that person is active, in what radius, and so on. And while LP can't access law enforcement data, it's possible to send the data the other way, said Rieger, which could strengthen a retailer's public-private partnerships and potentially result in the disruption of organized retail crime (ORC) operations. As with consumer sentiment, however, general regulatory uncertainty—rather than the legitimacy of privacy concerns or current law—could be enough to give a retailer pause. "It's standard in common law that people have no expectation of privacy in a public venue, and the public is an invitee to a store, so there is an ability to disinvite people," said Palmer. But even if the legal footing is currently solid, recent regulation related to privacy and biometrics in a few states, like California and Illinois, and the prospect of what other states may do, can damper a national chain's enthusiasm. News items of biometric systems coming under attack surely don't help, including a proposed class action in August against Crate & Barrel, claiming its use of biometric fingerprint scanners violate Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act. Liquor store chain Binny's Beverage Depot was also hit with a potential class action under the Illinois law for its fingerprint-based timekeeping system. The New York Civil Liberties Union is trying to block a school district in the western Jack Patel says he's also using FRT to notify staff when particularly good customers enter the store, which is particularly useful because his high turnover among store personnel doesn't allow for this type of valuable customer service to evolve naturally. 18 SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM

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