When California residents are shopping in stores, they might expect to be seen on security cameras. Modern technology is enabling store owners to go one step further by recording and sharing images of shoppers in an effort to prevent theft. Facial recognition technology is hailed by some as a major breakthrough in crime prevention, but critics say that unrestricted use of the technology is an invasion of privacy.
There are currently no federal laws restricting the way that customers of facial recognition software companies can use it. For store owners, the goal is to log photos of shoplifters so that these individuals can be barred from the store. However, the technology also allows uploads and sharing of data to other store owners.
One of the problems, as privacy advocates see it, is that mistakes in identifying shoplifters or potential shoplifters could be made. An innocent bystander could be caught on camera and mistaken for a shoplifter and then find that no local store in the vicinity will allow them in.
It isn't just stores that are using the technology: Taylor Swift reportedly uses it at her concerts to spot stalkers, some police departments use it, and some airports and schools around the world are using it as well. In the United States, federal legislation has been proposed that would require businesses to notify customers that it is using facial recognition technology and prohibit the sharing of the data without consent. A ban on government agencies using the technology has been proposed in San Francisco and a few other U.S. cities.
Law enforcement uses many methods of crime detection, but police are required to obey laws and follow rules too. When someone is charged with a crime, any misstep on the part of police officers might be used in a criminal defense.