Big Brother

New York City Supermarket Using Facial Recognition Technology To Catch Thieves

An Upper West Side supermarket is using facial recognition technology to catch thieves as a wave of shoplifting slams the city — but some customers say it’s an invasion of privacy akin to “Big Brother.”

Fairway on Broadway and West 74th Street is collecting customers’ personal information — such as eye scans and voice prints — in an attempt to stop the plague of shoplifters unleashing mayhem on the market, according to the firm.

“This technology is helping our stores reduce retail crime, an industry-wide challenge that has increased dramatically over the last few years,” the firm said in a statement.

“We have found that this technology — used thoughtfully and in combination with other measures we take to reduce theft — is helping prevent more crime in store.”

The store hung a small sign on its front entrance alerting customers that it “collects, retains, converts, stores or shares” customers’ “biometric information” in an effort to stop repeat crooks.

But some shoppers called the controversial technology disconcerting.

“It’s a little creepy,” said Shawn Adams, a 37-year-old who was shopping at the store on Thursday. “It’s an invasion of privacy.”

Claudia, a retired teacher from the Upper West Side, fretted what would happen to her personal information once it was gathered .

“I don’t like it. I just don’t like Big Brother watching what I’m doing,” she said. “I don’t like people to take my information.”

Andrea S., a 74-year-old psychotherapist, added, “I think it’s horrible. I don’t want anyone to use my face.”

 

Retail thefts in the Big Apple hit a record high last year with complaints soaring to more than 63,000 — a 45% jump from 2021. Many of the crooks were repeat offenders, with 327 suspected thieves making up 30% of the city’s total shoplifters.

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Crooks have gotten so shameless, Mayor Eric Adams encouraged shoppers earlier this month to take off  their face masks when entering stores in a bid to control the shoplifting upsurge.

Other stores and drug chains have increasingly begun using facial-recognition software, artificial intelligence and even aisle-roving robots to curb theft thieves in New York.

On Thursday, some Fairway shoppers said the high-tech tool didn’t bother them if it helped diminish retail theft in the city.

“My initial reaction was against it, but thinking it through, I’m not anti,” said Anette Ronner, a 77, retired fashion industry worker from Upper West Side.

“I’m leaning towards acceptance. I think it will deter some shoplifting, which we all end up paying for eventually with higher and higher prices.”

Fairway insisted that it’s following all laws connected with the technology.

“Only trained asset protection associates use the system, which helps us focus attention on repeat shoplifters,” its statement said.

“Retail theft and shoplifting has a high rate of repeat offense and drives up grocery costs for all customers.”

A Fairway spokesperson didn’t immediately comment when asked for crime prevention data it may have already collected.

 

 

 

 

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Ella Ford is a mother of two, a Christian conservative writer with degrees in American History, Social and Behavioral Science and Liberal Studies, based in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

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