Nick Fisher, CEO, of Facewatch talks Face2Face with customers, partners and the public about the real issues of retail crime and how Facewatch is facing up to the challenge of providing a proven and powerful tool which deters and prevents retail crime and violence.

Transcription below:

The Full Film:

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Hi, I’m Nick Fisher and I’m the CEO of Facewatch. I’m coming on camera because I want to put the record straight about, a lot of the things I’ve been reading about facial recognition that are a little bit frustrating in some, in some cases and needs to be commented on from somebody who runs a business that at the heart of it is about facial recognition and data sharing. So bear with me while I express my views and tell you a little bit about Facewatch and why I think there’s a clear point of difference between how you may have read or understood how facial recognition works and how it’s used when it’s used in a very responsible fashion in the way that we use it today. So I think there’s a real place for facial recognition technology and the sharing of data, providing it’s done responsibly and very transparently and Facewatch has lobbied for transparency and some clear understanding within the government as to how we should be using this technology going forward.

But it certainly shouldn’t be driven underground. It’s a phenomenal tool if used correctly. I think it’s really important that we embrace new technology and specifically against the backdrop of increasing crime. There are 23,000 fewer officers than there were in 2010 and over the same period of time, 35% new types of crime. If you then take what gets published in the public domain, different forces across the UK saying that they’re not coming out to low-level crime anymore, it’s quite understandable. They don’t have the resources. Now, I spent 20 plus years as a shopkeeper, so I understand what happens in retail and all that does, it builds apathy, apathy for reporting crime. What’s the point? Nobody’s coming out, who are we educating at the end of all this, we’re educating the thief who knows there’s not many police around.

The police have gone public saying they’re not coming out to this anymore. And by the way, the shopkeepers said, there’s no point in reporting, happy days. And so the statistics all bear fruit. If you look at crime reported over the last five, six, seven years, it just keeps going up. And a recent independent report said it was at £11 billion in the UK now we’ve got to do something about that. And so when you’re talking about those sorts of numbers, they have a material impact on operating profit and net profit of businesses. We’ve been doing this for three years and what a transition it has been in the market in terms of the quality of algorithm production from when I first started in facial recognition to the point that we’ve only really released our technology in the last nine to 12 months. Because before then quite frankly I didn’t think it was good enough to use. It’s a  different story now though, this is a really powerful tool and we’ve got to embrace new technology. If we’re going to help fight crime.


Facewatch a really powerful tool

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We’re commoditising facial recognition. You need a standard HD camera and a license from Facewatch and away you go.  The same price as CCTV technology. So a retailer, let’s just take a corner shop, can have facial recognition for the same price as a good CCTV system. Now the difference between facial recognition and CCTV; CCTV fundamentally  records crime and therefore you have to report that crime to the police. And the police have said we don’t have enough resources to deal with low-level crime. Facial recognition provided by FaceWatch is proven to deter and prevent crime. And we’ve got some fantastic evidence where our subscribers have used Facewatch where they’ve seen significant reductions in crime in just 90 days of deployment.


So who benefits from Facewatch?

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Well, in my opinion, everybody benefits, the store has a lot less negative activity on-site, less loss on-site, therefore greater profitability. The feedback we’ve had from employees where we’ve deployed Facewatch is they feel much safer and I’m sure it makes communities and environment safer. In fact, our YouGov survey said in general that people welcome facial recognition. CCTV essentially records the crime as it happens Facewatch and facial recognition technology prevents and deters crime before it happens.


Facts about Facewatch

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So, let me deal with some of the facts and some of the misreporting of facial recognition. But let me specifically talk about Facewatch. Number one, we do not record and store data of innocent people. Number two, we do not track innocent people. Number three, we only operate on private property. We do not use facial recognition technology in public space, and this is wholly different from how the police and other organisations have been using facial recognition in public places.


How Facewatch works day today.

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So here’s my message to you as store owners, this how you can make FaceWatch work for you in your business. So we’ve commoditised the proposition you need a standard HD camera and a Facewatch license. But how does it work on a day to day basis? Well, it captures the image of everybody who walks into your environment. It takes an image and converts it into an algorithm. It sends the algorithm to the Facewatch watch-list and looks for a match. If there’s no match, the image is deleted. As I said before, we do not store and hold data of innocent people. However, if there is a match, it will send an alert to a mobile device or any device you choose in less than two seconds with the image that you’ve got on file or that we hold for you and the image of the subject of interest that’s  just walked through the door for you to match and compare and then it’s up to you how you handle that incident.   As a retailer it should be non-evasive typically what I was in retail is we approach nearly all customers and say hi, can I help you? If you’re an innocent person, you’re saying I’m just having a look and most people respond with just having a look. Then you can say, I’ll be right behind you if you need any help. That means two different things to do different people to a thief. It means you watching me. To me, it means that sounds very helpful


Facewatch and Data Management.

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Today. Everyone’s worried about data and so are we. We spent five years working with government bodies and, and uh, authorities to ensure that we are fully GDPR compliant with regards to managing and holding this special category data, which is facial recognition data on behalf of our clients. We manage, store and share that data proportionately and thematically with subscribers to face watch only and with no one else to give you the support and the training so that you and your teams can manage the system appropriately. All our data is secured in the cloud at tier three-level and Trustwave does penetration tests on our database frequently. So you can be confident that Facewatch knows how to manage and look after your data as we will be your data controller mitigating your risk.


So how effective is FaceWatch?

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Well, let me give you some examples of clients who have used FaceWatch recently. We are working with a big convenience food retailer who had quite a material problem of theft in a couple of their stores. Quite substantial numbers with no list. Facewatch deployed the service into their site and within 90 days they got a greater than 25% reduction in both sites That’s led them to ordering another 18 licenses and to fit Facewatch in 18 more of their stores. Since we deployed the technology, they have not reported one crime. We’ve gone into a small convenience store who reported losing circa £25,000 a year and has seen a greater than 30% reduction in crime. This is all in less than 90 days of deployment. These are all running and are now into contract. These people are using it and they’re becoming the advocates of Facewatch. It really does prevent and deter crime.


So where does FaceWatch work best?

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Well, we’re working with independent convenience stores, mom and pop stores who have deployed it because it’s highly affordable and as a great impact. We’re working with a national food retailer who now wants to consolidate and share data of a specific geography, so it’s very powerful the way it works in petrol forecourts, which are essentially now convenience stores that sell food. It works fantastically in shopping malls creating very safe environments. We’ve got a huge deployment with a shopping mall with a  70,000 footfall a day. They’re using it to really deter crime in their stores, down 70% year on year. It works absolutely everywhere. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be deployed in your business because it’s really affordable technology and it is proven to work.


Facewatch and self-help

So FaceWatch is about self-help. It’s about helping yourself and we work in partnerships, not just with our customers, but you have to work in partnerships with your customers. One of the things we insist on is absolute transparency. That means putting signage in your store, telling people you’re deploying facial recognition. One of the things that FaceWatch we’ll do is we’ll hold, store and share that data proportionally with other businesses in your area who subscribed to FaceWatch. You then start to build a really powerful tool to, to prevent and deter crime in your geography. Statistics reported by the ACS recently have shown that violent crime in specifically retail is on the increase and quite significant levels. These are people typically feeding habits , drug habits or drink problems. You know, we’ve had some fantastic feedback from subscribers to Facewatch saying that they feel safer in an environment where Facewatch is deployed and is a deterrent keeping these people away from their stores. They’re very transparent. The signage is their facial recognition deployed in here. They’d certainly don’t want to be caught on film. And as a consequence it’s easier not to go in an environment where you might be seen.

Final Thoughts

So I think facial recognition technology is like all technologies. I remember  when CCTV first came out and I was a junior retailer and everybody said this is big brother watching us and we won’t be able to go out.! There’s nearly 6 million cameras in the UK and about a half a million in London alone. It’s technology that eventually becomes part of society and people’s sort of, well they might not embrace it, they just accept that it’s there. I think that’s part of the problem in the retail landscape that people just appreciate their CCTV cameras here now and that they’re everywhere and therefore my mindset is that it’s not much of a deterrent. I think facial recognition will change the landscape. I personally believe that it will be a commonplace technology and in less than five years time, the markets forecast it to be somewhere around the £8 billion mark in the next three years.

So I think there’s a lot of investment going into it by companies and I think society needs it as a tool. There’s clearly not enough police officers around, , there’s going to be a huge challenge getting the 20,000 officers that have been mentioned by the government. I think we’re migrating towards a world of self-help and technology is a key partner in the evolution of, of helping people. And I just fundamentally believe facial recognition is a fabulous tool, but it has to be used with some form of very clear guidance and governance. It has to be used in a very transparent way and it has to be used and deployed by responsible organisations, people who take that responsibility seriously and with very clear guidance and training to end users.

And I think it will be a huge deterrent for crime going forward. I think the initial subscriber base will be the primary benefit of it, but I think as adoption grows, I think this will have a material impact on crime and it, you know, what I’ve learned from criminals is they definitely don’t want to be recognized. This is a technology that creates a quick alert of someone who creates crime, then it might just be a start to have a material impact in reducing crime across the UK. Our objective is to make Facewatch as a technology affordable. We’ve aimed at the retail sector and we’ve priced it at the same price as a good quality CCTV system. So this is my sales pitch;  If you’re interested, if you like what I’ve said, if you think this is a product for you, you have experienced retail crime, you want an affordable system where we manage the data for you.  You put the technology in and it will have a material impact and we’ve got some fabulous case studies that we would be happy to share with you.

Get in touch with us. We’re here to help you, a very friendly organization and we’ll, we’ll guide you through the process. Thanks for listening.


Hundreds of terminals from Intel and NEC will scan the faces of athletes, sponsors, volunteers and other accredited people at the next summer Olympics.


(Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

If you’re an athlete, sponsor, journalist or volunteer at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, you’ll be using a facial recognition system from Japanese electronics giant NEC and chipmaker Intel to get where you need to be.

Intel is collaborating with NEC to provide “a large-scale face recognition system for the Olympics,” said Ricardo Echevarria, general manager of Intel’s Olympics program. The system is designed to let Olympics organizers “ensure smoothly secure verification for the over 300,000 people at the games who are accredited,” he said. People using it will register with photos from government-issued IDs, he added.

Facial recognition has grown by leaps and bounds with the arrival of the sophisticated pattern-matching abilities of modern artificial intelligence technology called neural networks. But many are alarmed about pervasive computer surveillance, leading cities like Somerville, Massachusetts, and San Francisco and Oakland, California, to bar police from using the technology.

Intel didn’t comment on the privacy or data retention aspects of the technology, and NEC said that’s the purview of the Tokyo Olympics organizers. Those organizers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

NEC will deploy hundreds of facial recognition systems around the Olympics facilities, a move that should speed up ID checks for accredited people, Echevarria said. It’s the first time the Olympics have used that facial recognition technology.

It won’t be a wholesale replacement for the old ways: Accredited personnel at the Olympics will still have to wear traditional ID lanyards, Intel and NEC said. But the facial recognition system will be required: if someone loses their lanyard or tries to get access with one that’s stolen, the facial recognition system will block them, NEC said.

“Facial recognition improves security and efficiency by being able to confirm a picture ID against the face of the person seeking to enter a facility with greater speed and accuracy than human staff,” NEC said.

Intel will be involved in other Olympic-related moves, too:

  • It’s helped develop a technology called 3DAT (3D Athlete Tracking) that broadcasters can use to boost instant-replay videos with data about player movements. An AI system processes video data rapidly to generate the overlay graphics.
  • Intel also is helping to run a global esports gaming competition in parallel with the Olympics in Tokyo. Players from an initial group of 20 countries will compete in the videogame event, which also includes participation from gaming companies Capcom and Epic Games.
  • It’s building virtual reality training realms that athletes and organizers can use to visualize arenas and other facilities.


By 27 August 2019

Facial recognition technology burst into the headlines this month following an exposé in the Financial Times about its use in London’s King’s Cross.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has launched an investigation into the use of the technology, which scanned pedestrians’ faces across the 67-acre site comprising King’s Cross and St Pancras stations and nearby shopping areas, without their knowledge.

It is the latest controversy to embroil the technology. Manchester’s Trafford Centre was ordered to stop using it by the Surveillance Camera Commission, which works for the Home Office.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said after details of the King’s Cross scheme emerged that she was “deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces”.

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives in order to identify them is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all”

Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives in order to identify them is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all,” she maintained.

“That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding. My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data is used.”

The European Commission is also understood to planning new regulation that will give EU citizens explicit rights over the use of their facial recognition data as part of an update of artificial intelligence laws.

What’s it for?

So what does that mean for retailers that are either already deploying or are considering a roll-out of facial recognition technology in their stores?

Given the level of concern and scrutiny from regulators and public alike about how such technology is used, can retailers deploy it in a way that adds value to their business and without risking alienating customers?

Innovation agency Somo’s senior vice-president of product management Tim Johnson says: “There’s a very wide range of things [facial recognition] could potentially be used for. It is a very significant technology and a really seamless process that provides a strong form of identification, so it is undeniably big news.

“But at the moment it is a big muddle in terms of what it is for, whether it is useful or too risky and in what ways. We’ll look back on where we are now as an early stage of this technology.”

One area where facial recognition technology has been piloted by retailers is in-store to crack down on shoplifting and staff harassment.

“The only information held is on those who are known to have already committed a crime in the store previously”

Stuart Greenfield, Facewatch

According to the BRC, customer theft cost UK retailers £700m last year, up 31% year on year, while 70% of retail staff surveyed described police response to retail crime as poor or very poor.

Against that backdrop, retailers such as Budgens have rolled out tech from facial recognition provider Facewatch to stores across the South and Southeast, after a trial in an Aylesbury shop resulted in a 25% crime reduction.

Facewatch marketing and communications director Stuart Greenfield explains that clear signage is displayed throughout any store where the platform’s technology is used, and any data is held in Facewatch’s own cloud platform, not by the retailers.

“The only information held is on those who are known to have already committed a crime in the store previously, anyone whose face is scanned by the system and does not correspond against our existing database is deleted immediately,” says Greenfield.

He believes it is the “combination of marketing, in-store signage and the system itself” which acts as a deterrent to shoplifting and staff harassment in stores where Facewatch’s technology is used.

Shopping centre operator Westfield has teamed up with digital signage firm Quividi, which analyses passersby’s facial data based on their age, gender and mood to determine which adverts are displayed as a means of driving customer engagement and sales. Shoe specialist Aldo and jeweller Pandora also work with Quividi overseas.

Quividi chief marketing officer Denis Gaumondie argues that the platform’s technology is not facial recognition – rather it is facial analysis, because it does not store any data on passersby and would therefore not recognise a repeat customer, or link their data to purchases.

He adds that it is the responsibility of Quividi’s retail partners to inform shoppers that the technology is in use.

Hot potato

However, DWF partner Ben McLeod, who specialises in commercial and technology law, says even using facial recognition or analysis technology in-store as described above could land retailers in hot water.

“There is a general prohibition on processing special category data [which may, for instance, include racial or ethnic origin] unless a specific exception applies,” he points out. “Many of the exceptions relate to the public interest which doesn’t really apply to retailers, particularly where the primary purpose for the use of the technology is marketing or to prevent stock loss.”

“Processing is possible where the data subject [the customer] has given explicit consent, but in practice, this will be difficult to demonstrate, as merely alerting customers to the use of facial recognition technology will not suffice.”

“Given that the basis on which the police are using surveillance technology is also currently subject to legal challenge, retailers are advised to tread carefully,” he cautions.

Opting in

Facial recognition technology is prompting controversy

Facial recognition has also been tried out by the Co-op to verify the purchase of age-restricted products such as alcohol at self-service checkouts. Customers found to be over 30 were allowed to complete the purchase without the need for verification by a member of staff.

Johnson believes such use of facial recognition technology would be welcomed by many customers because it would require their specific consent to use it, as was the case with the Co-op, as would verification of the purchase of a whole shopping basket using biometric data.

“People are comfortable with using facial identification on their own device [such as Apple’s Face ID], so using it as a means of verifying purchases in-store feels like a logical next step. It would speed up the check-out experience.”

Capgemini principal consultant Bhavesh Unadkat also points to the roll-out of Amazon Go stores in the US, which verify shoppers’ purchases and link them to their Amazon account using biometric data including facial recognition technology.

He explains that shoppers who download the Amazon Go app and then go into one of the checkout-free stores understand what technology is being used, and how it is benefiting them by providing an efficient shopping experience. The trade-off is clear and there is an “opt-in” to use the technology.

“I don’t think [retailers] can ask customers to opt out of facial recognition technology being used in-store, or just alert them to it being there,” he says.

“They need to ask shoppers to opt in and sell them the benefits they would get, such as a cashless checkout, more rewards, personalised offers to your mobile as you enter the store. Don’t go down the route of assuming people will never opt in and not communicating effectively, because if you get it wrong then the trust is broken.

“Right now we are making a mess of [facial recognition technology] because people are already paranoid about sharing information online and now feel like they are being victimised in a bricks-and-mortar environment as well.”

McLeod concurs with that view.

He says: “Amazon Go is the kind of thing where people are making a choice upfront by downloading the app. That is different from walking into a shopping centre or having the technology foisted upon you in a way that isn’t transparent.

“It becomes far more pervasive in that setting, but the more fundamental issue is there isn’t a strong legal grounding for the use of the technology.”

Right side of the law

Greenfield emphasises that Facewatch is working with the ICO to ensure its technology remains compliant with current and incoming regulations.

“We are pushing like mad for legislation as quickly as possible,” he says. “We want to do everything that is good for the technology because the reality is we cannot put the genie back in the bottle; [facial recognition] is out there and it will be used by someone, so we should have legislation to ensure it is used properly.”

Johnson advises retailers to collaborate closely with engaged suppliers and legislators, and tread carefully when deploying facial recognition technology, but does not believe that current controversies should deter retailers from using it for good.

He says: “I absolutely think [retailers] should still be exploring it. The current environment should make them fully aware of the risks, but it isn’t going away and the potential rewards are large, from crime prevention to age verification and flagging relevant products to customers.

“We’ll hopefully see a period of innovation which shows people what [facial recognition] is useful for.”

By 5 September 2019 Convenience store magazine

Workers in the retail and wholesale industries continue to suffer from the highest levels of crime out of all key business sectors, with retailers who experience crime being targeted more often than in previous years, new Home Office data shows.


The crime rate in the retail and wholesale sector has risen every year since 2015, from 12,400 incidents per 1,000 premises to 27,400 incidents in 2018, the latest Commercial Victimisation Survey (CVS) reveals.

The number of assaults and threats has also continued to rise year on year, up to 1,600 incidents per 1,000 premises in 2018, a marginal increase on 2017 but significantly up from 500 incidents per 1,000 premises in 2016.

Theft accounted for 82% of all incidents reported in 2018 and almost three-quarters (71%) of all incidents of theft was theft by customers, with 19,300 incidents per 1,000 premises in 2018.

Theft of food or groceries accounted for over a quarter of stolen items in 2018.

The repeat victimisation rate for theft specifically has almost doubled in recent years, from 49 incidents per victim in 2012 to 92 incidents per victim in 2018.

The overall rate of repeat victimisation has also risen from 32 incidents per premises in 2012 to 69 per premises in the 2018 survey.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the survey highlighted the need for a more targeted approach to dealing with repeat offenders.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “These findings show that businesses are being repeatedly targeted by criminals that are not only committing thefts, but are also being abusive and violent towards retailers and their staff.

“We need targeted action to deal with repeat offenders who are currently being all but ignored by the justice system.

“The increase in the number of assaults and threats is especially concerning, as no one should have to face violence or abuse in their work but it is being seen as just part of the job for many in the sector.

“We continue to urge retailers and their staff to report every incident when it occurs to ensure that the police are aware of the full extent of the problem.”

Figures from the 2019 ACS Crime Report show that retailers believe 79% of crimes are committed by repeat offenders, with around half of those offenders being motivated by a drug or alcohol addiction.

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As the world’s first case against the controversial technology concluded, two leading judges dismissed the case brought by human rights campaign group Liberty on behalf of Ed Bridges, a Cardiff resident whose face was scanned by South Wales Police during a trial of facial recognition.

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, concluded that South Wales Police’s use of live facial recognition “met the requirements of the Human Rights Act”.In a three-day hearing in May, Mr Bridges’ lawyers had argued that South Wales Police violated his human right to privacy by capturing and processing an image taken of him in public.

The judges also ruled that existing data protection law offered sufficient safeguards for members of the public whose faces were scanned by facial recognition cameras, and that South Wales Police had considered the implications.

Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: “This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms.

“Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all.

“It is time that the government recognised the danger this dystopian technology presents to our democratic values and banned its use. Facial recognition has no place on our streets.”

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We will be reviewing the judgment carefully.

“We welcome the court’s finding that the police use of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) systems involves the processing of sensitive personal data of members of the public, requiring compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018.

“Any police forces or private organisations using these systems should be aware that existing data protection law and guidance still apply.”

The Facewatch team will be exhibiting at the Retail Week conference in Leicester on 3rd October.

Taking place at the Leicester City Football Club stadium it is a free conference and exhibition for retailers.

To arrange a meeting with Geoff Gritton please email: [email protected] or call him on Mobile 07711 756754



Don’t Miss The Biggest Day on The Risk Management Calendar…

Retail Risk – Leicester, followed by the Fraud Awards Gala Dinner the same evening, promises to be an outstanding day of networking, round tables and main stage presentations.

Last year, key decision-makers and influencers from most of Europe’s top 250 physical and online retailers attended, making it one of the very best places to meet new business contacts and catch up with old friends. And this year promises an excellent roster of speakers and round table hosts too.

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