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Legal Complaint Filed Against Co-Op’s “Orwellian” Facial Recognition

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Big Brother Watch claims supermarket biometric scans of “thousands of shoppers” is “unlawful” and “Orwellian in the extreme.”

Privacy rights group Big Brother Watch issued a statement last Tuesday stating they had filed a legal complaint with the Information Commissioner claiming that Southern Co-operative’s use of live facial recognition cameras in its supermarkets is “unlawful”. The legal complaint, sent via the group’s lawyers from data rights firm AWO, claims that the use of the biometric cameras “is infringing the data rights of a significant number of UK data subjects”.

Southern Co-operative supermarkets use facial recognition software with surveillance cameras from Chinese state-owned firm Hikvision, which also provides cameras for the CCP’s concentration camps in Xinjiang and has been associated with serious security flaws. The firm is banned from operating in the US and a group of senior parliamentarians recently urged the Government to ban the cameras from the UK.

Big Brother Watch is a UK civil liberties campaign group fighting for a free future. “We’re determined to reclaim our privacy and defend freedoms at this time of enormous technological change. And we fight to win,” their website states.

As reported by Ethical Consumer in January 2021, reports suggested that the controversial surveillance system was rolled out in select stores overseen by the Southern Co-operative as part of a “trial” since mid-2019.

Despite the use of facial recognition by police forces being deemed controversial with the Court of Appeal ruling parts of its use to be unlawful in August 2020, its use has been creeping into the private sector and the true scale of its use remains unknown.

While shops with face-recognising cameras display signs telling customers about their operation, no general public announcement was made before the trials started. the issue was only brought to wider attention following the publication of a case study on the website of Facewatch, a specialist provider of facial recognition systems and surveillance.

As early as 2020, the rollout left privacy advocates questioning whether the shops could fully justify the use of the technology under data protection laws. They also worried about creeping surveillance and the ability of police forces to access private systems.


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Big Brother Watch’s legal complaint filed in July 2022 outlines how the Co-op’s system, sold by Facewatch, “uses novel technology and highly invasive processing of personal data, creating a biometric profile of every visitor to stores where its cameras are installed.” The supermarket chain has installed the controversial surveillance technology in 35 stores across Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Chichester, Southampton, and London.

The supermarket’s staff can add individuals to the facial recognition “blacklist”, making them a “subject of interest”. Shoppers are not informed if their facial biometric data, similar to the data held on modern passports, is stored or added to the supermarket’s blacklist where it is kept for up to two years.

Photos of shoppers who are not on any watchlist may be kept for days for Facewatch to “improve its system”, according to Facewatch documents analysed in the complaint.

The facial recognition software used with the cameras, provided by UK firm Facewatch, can be used to share biometric photos of “subjects of interest” with other companies that buy access to their system. Shoppers’ photos can be shared within an 8-mile radius from where they are taken from stores in London, or up to a 46-mile radius in rural locations.

Being on the watchlist for one of Facewatch’s clients like the Southern Co-operative could have serious detrimental impacts on someone’s day-to-day life. Big Brother Watch is urging anyone who thinks they might have been affected by this to reach out to them, as they may be able to challenge their inclusion on the watchlist.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch said:

“Our legal complaint to the Information Commissioner is a vital step towards protecting the privacy rights of thousands of people who are affected by this dangerously intrusive, privatised spying.

“The Southern Co-op’s use of live facial recognition surveillance is Orwellian in the extreme, highly likely to be unlawful, and must be immediately stopped by the Information Commissioner.

“The supermarket is adding customers to secret watchlists with no due process, meaning shoppers can be spied on, blacklisted across multiple stores, and denied food shopping despite being entirely innocent. This would sound extreme even in an episode of Black Mirror, and yet it is taking place right now in Britain.

“This is a deeply unethical and frankly chilling way for any business to behave and I’d strongly recommend that people do not shop at the Southern Co-op whilst they continue to spy on their shoppers.”

Read more: Big Brother Watch Files Legal Complaint Against Co-Op’s “Orwellian” Facial Recognition, Big Brother Watch, 26 July 2022

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Paul Watson
Paul Watson
3 months ago

The judiciary is as corrupted as the police and medical profession.
It’s no longer business as usual.
The sooner people wake up the better.
We have sleep walked into an Orwellian nightmare and the majority are too busy waving Ukranaon flags and contemplating a monkey pox jab.
Once the CBDC is omelette its game over as the sheep will willingly accept the digital compliance it requires.
Incredible time to be alive.
The real pandemic is gullibility…

Paul Watson
Paul Watson
Reply to  Paul Watson
3 months ago

Omelette is code for implemented!

Islander
Islander
Reply to  Paul Watson
3 months ago

I don’t know whether you are a UK citizen or no, but the BBC over here are obsessed with headlining Women’s football at the moment, so you know the plotters and planners are busy at work-the real news being covered up!

As an aside, If women are so good at football-why don’t the professional clubs sign them up?

You are so right-“the judiciary is as corrupted as the police and medical profession”!
No Nuremburg 2!

Tighe
Tighe
Reply to  Islander
3 months ago

So true, especially with regards to the BBC (big brother conservatives), however we should keep in sight that the majority of people in those professions are bound by what they are told to do, whether they personally agree with it or not.

Maria
Maria
Reply to  Tighe
3 months ago

No one is “bound to do what they are told to do” .
They are bound to their own interest in the money they get for to do what they are told to do.

“Tell” them to jump from a bridge and then you will see that they are not bound to do what they are told to do.

Surfing the Nürnberg trial they asked Himler how they did manage to get seemingly “good” people to perform those evil things?

Himler answered “it is not difficult because the evil is already inside the human”.

That is why Jesus say:
Resist the devil (inside yourself) and he will flee from (yourself).

There exist no evil government, they only use what is already in you.

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3 months ago

[…] Go to Source Follow altnews.org on Telegram […]

M. Dowrick
M. Dowrick
3 months ago

Exmouth Devon coop involved in this crime. Police report to be filed.

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3 months ago

[…] Read More: Legal Complaint Filed Against Co-Op’s “Orwellian” Facial Recognition […]

Emma
Emma
3 months ago

It’s installed in all Coops I’ve visited around Chester and N Wales

trackback
3 months ago

[…] Legal Complaint Filed Against Co-Op’s “Orwellian” Facial Recognition Big Brother Watch claims supermarket biometric scans of “thousands of shoppers” is “unlawful” and “Orwellian in the extreme.” […]

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3 months ago

[…] Legal Complaint Filed Against Co-Op’s “Orwellian” Facial Recognition  Big Brother Watch claims supermarket biometric scans of “thousands of shoppers” is “unlawful” and “Orwellian in the extreme.” […]

Fred
Fred
3 months ago

My local Tesco superstore has cameras installed at the self checkout tills. I don’t know if they are being used for facial recognition but I do wonder about their purpose.

Rose Petal
Rose Petal
Reply to  Fred
3 months ago

They could be being used to see if customers are cheating at the self checkout – putting asparagus in as potatoes for example. That is their biggest concern methinks.

Rose Petal
Rose Petal
3 months ago

I specifically don’t go into Woolworths or Bunnings in Sydney now as they are using it. If more stores start using it I will go further down the chain until I find someone who doesn’t. Local small shops need our business more anyway. The big stores are just adding on and adding on because they think we expect it. Once we used to all lambast the Chinese for their use of the facial recognition technology and now we’re emulating them. What is going on?

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29 days ago

[…] Legal Complaint Filed Against Co-Op’s “Orwellian” Facial Recognition, 1 August 2022 […]