In a series of blogs, Facewatch’s Data Protection Officer discusses the company’s approach to providing a trusted, legal and ethical solution that provides an affordable deterrent to crime and anti-social behaviour in the retail sector.
Retail owners and managers are facing continuing and growing challenges with increasing losses due to theft and the need to provide a safe working environment for their customer-facing employees.
Public opinion is supportive of new technology to help with these challenges and retailers are becoming confident that solutions such as Facewatch are acceptable to their customers and front-line employees are keen to work in retailers where it is used.
Dave Sumner, our DPO, explains the 4-year journey that the company has taken to ensure that Facewatch became the leader in facial recognition.
I am a Certified Data Protection Officer and Certified Security Management Professional. Before I joined Facewatch over four years ago I enjoyed a 31 year career in the police. My career was varied and interesting with roles including Head of Criminal Justice, Director of Intelligence, and NATO’s Chief Advisor on Police Intelligence to the Afghan Home Secretary. All these roles involved handling sensitive information in order to achieve the objective of protecting people by preventing and detecting crime and bringing criminals to justice. They also had another thing in common – the objective had to be achieved within the boundaries of a legal and ethical framework. I had one simple personal rule that guided me throughout. I wanted to be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience, knowing I had done all I could and that my actions would withstand scrutiny in both the courts of the land and the court of public opinion.
It is for these reasons that I was recruited by Facewatch CEO Nick Fisher and Chairman Simon Gordon. They both saw the pressing need of business owners to protect their staff and property from criminal activity and that their Facewatch Facial Recognition System was the solution. They also recognised it was essential that the system operated in a way that complies with the law (the Data Protection Act) and that could withstand scrutiny by regulatory bodies ( the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner). Together we have built a facial recognition system that does just that.
We live in a world of individual rights, some of which are enshrined in law and some of which are expected by the public’s sense of natural justice and fairness. Business owners don’t want to offend either but also have to trade in a challenging environment where criminal activity takes away their profit and harms their staff and customers. This is why I also point to the right of business owners to protect their property, staff and customers from this criminality. This right is also enshrined in law and the public’s sense of natural justice and fairness.
The Facewatch system has been designed to ensure that Facewatch and their clients meet the requirements of the law. Our operation has been inspected and assessed by the Information Commissioner’s Office and fully briefed to the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner. MORI Polling shows the majority of the public sampled to be in favour of facial recognition as a tool to prevent crime. Our clients can therefore rest assured that their use of Facewatch will withstand scrutiny in both the courts of the land and the court of public opinion.
Facewatch welcomes the ICO Opinion on how Live Facial Recognition can be lawfully used in public spaces, including the retail environment. The Opinion provides much need clarity on how LFR can be lawfully used to prevent crime.
I am delighted to say that the announcement confirms our comprehensive data protection measures fully meet the requirements of the Opinion by both Facewatch and our clients.
In future blogs I will describe how the Facewatch System works in a legal and ethical way starting with Subjects of Interest, the people that businesses want to protect themselves from. In the meantime I continue to work to help business protect themselves by ensuring the legal compliance of Facewatch.
And yes, I still sleep well.