Descent into a dystopian world

The emergence of facial recognition CCTV cameras in shops is a descent down a dystopian road and we do not want to know what awaits us at the bottom.

The news this week that Sports Direct in Brixton has installed artificial intelligence cameras to scan the faces of customers without their consent marks the beginning of a new era of privacy and data concerns.

As customers enter shops the camera technology cross-checks them with a database of suspected shoplifters.

If there is a match, staff are alerted and may decide to closely monitor the person or escort them out of the store.

This is a terrible route for shops to go down.

They say they are reacting to an increase in shoplifting.

But it presents an ethical dilemma for us all, not least because facial recognition cameras have been found to be lacking when it comes to identifying people with darker skin tones.

According to Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, face recognition technology is notoriously inaccurate and it says it has witnessed people being falsely stopped by facial recognition as they were wrongly placed on a watchlist.

Data from the Met and South Wales Police shows that more than 80 per cent of facial recognition flags have been incorrect since the technology was first deployed in 2017.

Since then, there have been many cases of people wrongly stopped by facial recognition cameras in supermarkets, leading to embarrassing and distressing encounters.

This is mass surveillance on a new scale and any attempt to normalise policing by artificial intelligence must be resisted.

We have somewhat slept-walked into allowing CCTV to monitor our every move.

Some say that’s fine if you’re not doing anything wrong, but this system shows that even if you are innocent you can still get into trouble.


Spirit of South London
South London Press

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