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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.

 

 

The pace of Facewatch installations continues to increase with two new installations in Wolverhampton and Leeds this week (week 24 2021)

New system upgrades also continue across our network in London and Luton.

 

With the recent BRC (British Retail Consortium) crime survey reporting an increase in theft and violence many retailers are facing huge challenges to support their front line workers and protect their stock. With a further increase in theft in the wholesale market to compound the issues technology is increasingly seen as a low cost and positive way forward.

Facewatch have recently commissioned a YouGOV survey across the UK and public opinion towards the use of CCTV based AFR systems shows that over 74.9% of the public are in agreement or are neutral about the use of AFR in everyday life to prevent and solve crime.

If you are a retail owner who is worried about theft and anti-social behaviour in your store but have questions about the reaction by your customers to the use of these new technologies then Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch is available to discuss the challenges, show you the system in use and for you to meet other retailers who are currently using the Facewatch system.

Our Data Protection Officer, Dave Sumner is also available to overview the detail of how Facewatch manages data under the GDPR data protection law. https://www.facewatch.co.uk/privacy/facewatch-and-gdpr/

 

Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch, responds to the latest BRC crime report

https://brc.org.uk/news/corporate-affairs/retail-crime-continues-to-climb/

The recent BRC (British Retail Consortium) 2021 crime report gives us all a chilling reminder of how even during a pandemic retail crime and violence continues to blight an industry that employs over 3million people- 10% of the UK working population.

The headline facts show a marked increase in theft and violence and how difficult it is to convict those committing offences.

  • 7% rise in incidents of violence and abuse against shopworkers, now at 455 each day
  • Only 6% of incidents of violence and abuse result in prosecution
  • Whopping £2.5 billion cost of crime to retailers, including £935m in customer theft

Technology is providing a range of innovative solutions to ensure the retail experience is safe and pleasurable, however, some of these new solutions make it easier for theft and sometimes mean a less interactive experience for shoppers especially those who are older and less able to cope with new technology. These challenges will continue, and new innovations are sure to arrive that answer these needs. Crime and violence however seem to be an epidemic driven by social issues that vary greatly across the UK. One thing this report highlights is that overall, there is a steady increase in theft and violence, specifically in the retail sector.

Facewatch App

How are we helping at Facewatch?

As a business our vision is to create safer, crime fee retailing, and our mission is to develop the very latest technology to be used by retailers to create a deterrent to both theft and violence. Our newest, fastest, and easiest to use version of Facewatch is being deployed by all types of retailers nationwide to great effect.

We understand it is not easy for a retailer to broadcast they are using a sophisticated technology such as facial recognition, but our customer collectively agree that Facewatch is it an imperative tool to have in your armoury if you are serious about providing a safe environment for your employees and customers. For those using the Facewatch system, customer facing employees report feeling safer and the accountants report less shrinkage. It’s a win-win solution and if our users had any negative feedback from their everyday loyal customers, we would be the first to know. Just for the record, this has never happened! Facewatch provides store signage to ensure the service is transparent to all customer and operates beyond the standard required by GDPR and is evidenced to reduce crime in your store by at least 25% in the first 90 days.

Meat, nappies, razor blades and deodorant top the list of Britain’s most shoplifted items, reveals the company behind a facial recognition camera system used to spot criminals

  • Meat, nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain’s most shoplifted items
  • Facewatch operates in some Southern Co-op stores, Budgens, garden centres  
  • System sends alert to staff when someone on watchlist walks through the door

Meat, nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain’s most shoplifted items, a company behind a controversial facial recognition camera system to spot criminals has revealed.

Facewatch operates in some Southern Co-op stores, Budgens, garden centres and petrol stations and plans to expand, despite criticisms from privacy campaigners. Facewatch insists the technology is legal and meets the standards of privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Facewatch’s chief executive, Nick Fisher, said the company has created a ‘watchlist’ of individuals who have a history of theft, violence or threats of violence against shop staff based on CCTV images, names and descriptions provided by retailers signed up to the service.

The system sends an alert to store staff when someone on the watchlist walks through the door and is seen on CCTV (file image)

The system sends an alert to store staff when someone on the watchlist walks through the door and is seen on CCTV (file image)

Mr Fisher said the most commonly stolen items are packed meat, nappies, baby food, razor blades, whisky, cosmetics, cheese, deodorants and small electrical goods.

The system sends an alert to store staff when someone on the watchlist walks through the door and is seen on CCTV. The director of civil rights group Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said: ‘This surveillance is well-known to suffer from severe inaccuracy and biases, leading to innocent people being wrongly flagged.’

Meat, (file image) nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain¿s most shoplifted items, a company behind a controversial facial recognition camera system to spot criminals has revealed

Meat, (file image) nappies, razor blades and deodorant are Britain’s most shoplifted items, a company behind a controversial facial recognition camera system to spot criminals has revealed

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9128315/Meat-nappies-razor-blades-deodorant-list-Britains-shoplifted-items.html

 

In an open debate at The Temple in London the issues of facial recognition and its use by the Police was debated by Fiona Barton QC.

Facewatch was invited to speak to allow the invited barristers to learn more about this important crime deterrent. Presentations by Nick Fisher and our Data Protection officer,Dave Sumner, were made.  The video gives the edited highlights of this wide ranging presentation.

 

Event Video:

 

Presentations from:

Fiona Barton QC, 5 Essex Court

Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch

Dave Sumner, DPO, Facewatch

Fiona Barton QC

5 Essex Court Breakfast presentation

https://5essexcourt.co.uk/

The event:

https://5essexcourt.co.uk/resources/events