MPs ‘hit back’ at Frasers Group over facial recognition cameras

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has been condemned by MPs for its use of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) in stores.

A report by The Guardian revealed that nearly 50 cross-party MPs and peers co-signed a letter calling on the retail giant, which owns Sports Direct and House of Fraser, to stop the use of the “invasive and discriminatory” technology across its stores.

“Live facial recognition [LFR] technology has well-evidenced issues with privacy, inaccuracy, and race and gender discrimination,” said the letter, which was co-signed by David Davis, John McDonnell, and Tim Farron. “LFR inverts the vital democratic principle of suspicion preceding surveillance and treats everyone who passes the camera like a potential criminal.”

The letter says that Frasers Group obtains the facial biometric data of every customer entering its stores to be checked against a privately created watchlist.

The MPs described the process as equivalent to performing an identity check on every single customer.

Last year Southern Co-op faced a legal complaint from Big Brother Watch over its use of facial recognition in its stores.

At the time the campaign group, which coordinated and signed the recent letter to Frasers Group alongside Liberty and Privacy International, claimed that the supermarket’s use of the technology was unlawful.

Australia's information regulator also launched an investigation into Kmart and Bunnings over their use of facial recognition in stores in 2022.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) announced that it had opened investigations into the personal information handling practices of the two retailers.

Speaking to the Guardian about Frasers Group's use of LFR technology, former shadow home secretary David Davis said: “There are no rules: this is open season on privacy. Just this month, there was a case of Tesla employees getting into trouble because they were misusing photographs from inside the cars. It’s a good demonstration that even if there are promises made, you can never trust the organisation entirely, because human beings are human beings.”

Retail Systems has approached Frasers Group for comment.

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