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By  18 March 2020  Retail Week 

As the government takes increasingly stringent action to combat the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, retail staff have found themselves on the front line in the face of panic buying and contagion fears.

  • Labour MP Alex Norris calls on government to pass legislation protecting shopworkers from violence, abuse and assault
  • Morrisons CEO David Potts introduces numerous measures to protect staff, including statutory sick pay
  • Several retailers have called on consumers to treat colleagues with respect in the face of growing concerns around stockpiling

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK is rising daily. The government by its own admission has begun imposing “draconian” measures and many consumers have ignored pleas to the contrary and cleared shelves of some products in a stockpiling frenzy.

While panic buying has mostly taken place in supermarkets and grocery convenience stores, instances of consumers hoarding hand sanitiser, soap and over-the-counter medicines have also hit health and beauty retailers.

Social media, Twitter in particular, has started to fill up over the last few days with stories of frontline retail staff working longer hours and coming face to face with fraught and sometimes abusive members of the public, all the while trying to do their best to keep shelves stocked and consumers happy.

On Monday, Labour MP Alex Norris stood up in Parliament and put forward legislation to protect shopworkers from rising levels of violence, abuse and assault.

Norris said the shopworkers were “on the front line” of abuse and crime, and those worries were likely to be exacerbated amid the growing panic about coronavirus, given the “significance retail workers have in our lives, particularly during this period”.

“With the current coronavirus crisis we would argue that retail staff are essential workers”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has backed the call and said “retail staff are essential to our communities, particularly during the coronavirus crisis”.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis says: “We have always made the case that retail staff are at the heart of our communities, but with the current coronavirus crisis we would argue that they are essential workers.

“Usdaw members across the retail supply chain and in stores are working hard to keep shelves filled and serve customers. We understand this is a stressful time and remind customers that shopworkers deserve respect and that no level of abuse is ever acceptable. It should never be a part of the job.”

The BRC says it is working with police and partners to “keep retail sites running as smoothly as possible” and that “when circumstances are difficult, retailers are well-versed in providing effective security measures”.

In a statement issued to all Morrisons’ stakeholders yesterday, chief executive David Potts agreed and called on consumers to “treat our colleagues on the front line with the greatest respect”.

David Potts

Morrisons boss David Potts asked customers to ‘treat our colleagues on the front line with the greatest respect’

Potts also called on customers to “please consider others even more so everyone can buy what they need, especially those who are most vulnerable in our society”.

A spokesman from another national grocer said there had been a handful of incidents across its estate, but there had not needed to take on extra security guards.

While some retail staff have faced abuse from consumers, others are also struggling with worries about getting the disease themselves – either from customers or from colleagues.

It is becoming a growing concern for businesses that frontline staff, as well as those working in key supply chain roles such as warehouse workers and delivery drivers, will fall sick or be forced to self-isolate as the virus continues to spread.

Earlier this week, in a call between representatives of Defra, supermarket chains and the wider food industry, the possibility of taking thousands of hospitality workers on secondment to work in food supply chains was raised, according to BuzzFeed news. While this could even increase the risk of spreading the virus, it will at least safeguard vital jobs and supply lines in the sector.

‘Amazing group of people’

Protecting staff from spreading the disease is becoming a top priority. The managing director of one high street food and beverage operator told Retail Week his staff are deep cleaning premises three times a day. Under normal circumstances, they would be deep cleaned twice in a month.

A spokeswoman from the Co-op says it has taken “immediate steps” to safeguard staff including building in “additional working hours for store colleagues to undertake more frequent handwashing throughout the day”.

Morrisons and Boots are among those to have implemented measures designed to enhance hygiene and staff safety.

A Boots spokeswoman says it has been “making sure that our stores, pharmacies, opticians and hearing care facilities are all clean and hygienic”. She also says teams in-store “have access to handwashing facilities and sanitiser”.

Boots bag

Boots has ensured staff have access to handwashing facilities and sanitiser

Morrisons yesterday announced a slew of measures designed to protect staff. In order to reduce the handling of cash by shopworkers, the grocer has asked customers to pay by card or smartphone “where possible”.

The grocer has “been issuing hand sanitiser” to all checkout workers in-store, significantly increased cleaning on surfaces that consumers and staff touch and redeployed staff “who are vulnerable to the virus”.

The retailer has also taken measures to protect staff who either fall ill from the virus or are forced to self-isolate and therefore can’t work by creating a ‘colleague hardship fund’. This will ensure all staff affected by the virus receive sick pay “whether or not they would normally be eligible”.

As the retail sector waits to see what measures will be bought in by the government next, many in the industry are rallying around frontline workers in these uncertain times.

Timpson chief executive James Timpson today described employees as “an amazing group of people who I’m going to need to lean on heavily over the coming weeks and months to keep the show on the road”. Other retail leaders will heartily agree and be doing their best on behalf of their people.

Less than a month ago Vista CCTV became the newest partner with Facewatch to distribute this game changing technology to Vista Priority Partners (VPPs). In this series of Face to Face videos Nick Fisher,CEO, Facewatch and Dean Kernot, Sales and Marketing Manager, Vista CCTV go Face to Face in conversation to explore the opportunity.

In a wide ranging discussion with probing questions from Dean and straight talking answers from Nick this huge change to the security landscape is discussed.  Fundamentally Facewatch facial recognition is fast becoming the acceptable, affordable and compliant solution for any business wanting to deter crime and anti-social behaviour whilst providing a safer and more customer orientated environment for visitors and staff.

The full Face to Face film:

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The Facewatch story

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The Problem Facewatch Solves

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The Vista VPP program

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The Accredited Partner Program

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How do watch lists work?

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Why Facewatch?

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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

 

The Centre for Retail research has produced an overview of crime statistics in the UK which show a continued increase in the level and type of crime facing the retail sector.

https://www.retailresearch.org/crime-costs-uk.html

There are several official and unofficial surveys of retail crime in the UK, including the Home Office Crime Against Business 2018, the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2018, the Association of Convenience Stores’ The Crime Report 2019, as well as Sensormatic’s Global Shrink Index and Checkpoint’s Global Retail Theft Barometer. Each one has a different methodology and covers a slightly different purpose.

We have consolidated this information into a simple info-graphics with the focus on the major crime and violence issues facing UK retailers

Download the info-graphics guide:

FaceWatch_Infographic_A5 v6-2

Vista CCTV and Facewatch, the UKs leading retail crime deterrent solution using facial recognition, are excited to announce their new partnership to deliver facial recognition software to the security industry.

This new alliance offers large and small business owners alike the opportunity to secure their establishments against low level crime without needing to replace any current cameras or systems.

Dean Kernot, Vista Sales & Marketing Manager, comments:

 This is a really exciting partnership. Retail crime is a growing issue for retailers and Facewatch offers a legal and safe way to provide a deterrent to both shop theft and violence in store. Vista will be working with our network to train, support and deliver this new ground-breaking technology.”

 Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch

 “The Facewatch facial recognition system delivers a game changing technology which is incredibly accurate and fully GDPR compliant. Our solution is aimed at making the retail and hospitality environment safer by providing a deterrent against store theft and bad behaviour.  As a technology focussed business, we can only succeed by working with established and successful partners in the security industry that share our goals and passion. Vista are leaders in their field, and we are astonishingly privileged to be able to work with them to enable Facewatch to scale rapidly by building, with Vista, a network of accredited partners”

The Facewatch facial recognition solution is fully GDPR compliant and Facewatch remain as the data controller. Already an established provider of facial recognition solutions, this has been tested extensively in the retail sector over the last 18 months.

Facewatch is sold as a licenced-based product, creating a recurring revenue stream for installers who will provide ongoing technical and product management support to their customers.

The solution will be available via Vista accredited partners who have been trained both in practical security system set up and ensuring end user compliance whilst using the Facewatch system.

Vista CCTV company background:

 Vista is a UK based manufacturer of Video Surveillance Systems and hosted Access Control systems. Owned and exclusively distributed by leading security supplier Norbain SD, we have made it our mission to understand our customers’ needs. Our CCTV security solutions offer innovative products, using the most powerful and stable technologies – wrapped up in a support environment to ensure your projects run smoothly.

We pride ourselves on creating a range of differentiated solutions, developed in alignment with customer feedback to help you to deliver in the ever-changing marketplace.

 Facewatch company background:

Facewatch have been providing crime prevention solutions to the retail industry for over 10 years. The business was started by Simon Gordon, owner of London’s oldest wine bar, on the Embankment in London. The Wine bar was a target for pickpockets and bag thieves, and he wanted to provide a relaxed and safe environment for his customers. Being technology minded and working with the local police he launched the first ever online crime reporting system including CCTV footage. This led to the launch of the first facial recognition solution in 2017, enabling retailers to deter habitual criminals who were shoplifting, abusing staff or causing criminal damage.

Today the Facewatch system provides a GDPR compliant solution that is easy to install, can be used and managed by small stores and is scalable for use by large retail groups due to its unique cloud-based servers and using Intel® NUC mini PCs. Data is managed securely by Facewatch. Facewatch doesn’t store information about the general public, just those for whom their retailer subscribers have uploaded confirmed evidence of criminal activity. If a facial image is not matched to a relevant watch list the algorithmic data is instantly deleted.

 

Figure 1. Facewatch matches faces against known offenders within seconds of them entering a business

Facewatch technology

 Facewatch system overview:

Facewatch uses the software-as-a-service technology model, making advanced facial recognition affordable for even small businesses. The company’s watchlist lives on the cloud. It’s a centralized, managed database of biometric data corresponding to the faces of people who are reasonably suspected of having shoplifted or committed other crimes at businesses that subscribe to the service (Figure 1).

 The hardware to run Facewatch is simple to deploy. It includes a standard HD CCTV camera and Intel® NUC, a mini-PC that is only 4×4 inches in size and consumes very little power. Its performance enables it to play and record video at 4K Ultra HD clarity, making it ideal for a facial recognition system. The cameras—placed at store entrances—send an image to an on-site NUC loaded with software that converts the image to an algorithm. The algorithm is compared to those in the Facewatch relevant watchlist for that property and if there is a match an alert—along with an accuracy reading—is sent to the retailer’s smartphone or other device, warning it that a known criminal on the watchlist has entered its business.

To add a shoplifter to the watchlist takes only six key presses and about 20 seconds, making it easy for store or security staff, and it doesn’t interfere with their normal duties. “They simply follow a dropdown menu, the time and date are automated, tick the box, the whole thing’s designed to be simple but highly secure and includes a confirmatory legal statement confirming that the information is accurate.” said Nick Fisher, CEO of Facewatch.

The solution does not retain any personal data on anyone not on the watchlist. “If no match is discovered, the image is deleted in 0.3 seconds” Fisher said, “and the entire process—from the moment a known shoplifter comes through the door, to the instant the retailer gets an alert—takes less than two seconds.”

 

SBT are one of the leading providers of technology solutions to the retail sector in Spain and believe that facial recognition as a retail crime deterrent, as in the UK, is an important tool to improve the retail experience for both customers and staff.  With an international customer base and a focus on customer behaviour analysis, shopping experience and loss prevention the adoption of Facewatch the leading AFR system into SBT’s portfolio was seen as a natural step.

Jose Alvarez Abad, VP Strategic & Sales, SBT said:

“We have been watching the development of AFR for the retail sector with interest as Spain unfortunately experiences the same type of issues that plague the UK retail sector. As a specialist provider of retail technology, it became apparent that with the current European data laws Facewatch was the product that met all our requirements and gives us the opportunity to run trials with our key clients immediately.”

Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch Ltd

“Facewatch is fast becoming the standard for retail sector facial recognition in the UK and this has led to huge interest across Europe and the World. In 2016 we launched our first version of Facewatch facial recognition in Brazil and using our real world experience and early adoption of the GDPR privacy principles we have created an incredibly simple and effective system that is fully GDPR compliant.  The opportunity to work with SBT and appoint them as our distributor in Spain is great news for us, as having the opportunity to work with a well-established technology focused partner like SBT allows us to scale in other countries in the knowledge the training, implementation and GDPR compliance will be expertly managed.

 

SBT company background

SBT is a Spanish company specialising in the analysis, design and implement high technology solutions to the retail market. SBT’s clients include Pepe Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger and Pikolinos.

Established in 2017 the business is formed by a group of professionals with a broad experience with the focus on 4 business areas: In-store customers and product behaviour, operations and shopping experience,  security and loss prevention analytics and general retail services.

www.sb-tec.com

Facewatch company background:

Facewatch have been providing crime prevention solutions to the retail industry for over 10 years. The business was started by Simon Gordon owner of London’s oldest wine bar on the Embankment in London. The Wine bar was a target for pick pockets and bag thieves and he wanted to provide a relaxed and safe environment for his customers. Being technology minded and working with the local police he launched the first ever online crime reporting system including CCTV footage. This led to the launch of the first facial recognition solution in 2017, enabling retailers to deter habitual criminals who were shoplifting, abusing staff or causing criminal damage.

Today the Facewatch system provides a GDPR compliant solution that is easy to install, can be used and managed by small stores and is scalable for use by large retail groups due to its unique cloud-based servers and using Intel® NUC mini PCs. Data is managed securely by Facewatch. Facewatch doesn’t store information about the general public, just those for whom their retailer subscribers have uploaded confirmed evidence of criminal activity. If a facial image is not matched to a relevant watch list the algorithmic data is instantly deleted.

Figure 1. Facewatch matches faces against known offenders within seconds of them entering a business

Facewatch technology

Facewatch solution overview:

Facewatch uses the software-as-a-service technology model, making advanced facial recognition affordable for even small businesses. The company’s watchlist of Subjects of Interest (SOI’s) is stored securely in the cloud. It’s a centralised, managed database of biometric data corresponding to the faces of people who are reasonably suspected of having shoplifted or committed other crimes at businesses that subscribe to the service (Figure 1).

The hardware to run Facewatch is simple to deploy. It includes a standard HD CCTV camera and Intel® NUC, a mini-PC that is only 4×4 inches in size and consumes very little power. Its performance enables it to play and record video at 4K Ultra HD clarity, making it ideal for a facial recognition system. The cameras—placed at store entrances—send an image to an on-site NUC loaded with software that converts the image to an algorithm. The algorithm is compared to those in the Facewatch relevant watchlist for that property and if there is a match an alert—along with an accuracy reading—is sent to the retailer’s smartphone or other device, warning it that a known criminal on the watchlist has entered its business.

To add a shoplifter to the watchlist takes only six key presses and about 20 seconds, making it easy for store or security staff, and it doesn’t interfere with their normal duties. “They simply follow a dropdown menu, the time and date are automated, tick the box, the whole thing’s designed to be simple but highly secure and includes a confirmatory legal statement to ensure that the information is accurate.” said Nick Fisher, CEO of Facewatch.The solution does not retain any personal data on anyone not on the watchlist. “If no match is discovered, the image is deleted in 0.3 seconds” Fisher said, “and the entire process—from the moment a known shoplifter comes through the door, to the instant the retailer gets an alert—takes less than two seconds.”

For more information:

Smart Business Technologies

Jose Alvarez Abad

VP Strategic & Sales

jose.alvarez@sb-tec.com

(+34) 629 844 266

Pº de la Castellana 153

28046 Madrid – Spain

www.sb-tec.com   

 

Facewatch

Stuart Greenfield

PRO

T: 07788 662697

E: stuart.greenfield@facewatch.co.uk

www.facewatch.co.uk

 

 

David Davies, the technical director, of DVS goes on camera to explain the merits of Facewatch to their customers.  DVS were appointed by Facewatch just a few weeks ago to distribute Facewatch to the UK CCTV and security reseller market.

DVS will provide sales, support and training for Facewatch under a newly announced Facewatch Accredited Solutions Partner Program (ASP). This ensures that CCTV and security resellers will confidently be able to install, and support Facewatch in retail stores across the UK with total confidence:

 

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For more information on how to become a Facewatch ASAP please call DVS or the Facewatch team:

www.dvs.co.uk

DVS, one of the UK’s leading CCTV camera and components distributors, will become the first UK distributor to provide a facial recognition crime deterrent solution to their installer and reseller network.

The use of facial recognition as a deterrent to stop shop theft and violence in retail stores is rapidly gaining acceptance. The Facewatch system has been successfully tested across a range of retailers over the last 18 months. With demand increasing making Facewatch available via the established UK reseller channel will ensure the product, training and support is provided at the very highest level and a rapid roll out can be achieved.

Facewatch, which is sold as a licenced product is GDPR compliant and the uploaded criminal data is the responsibility of Facewatch under a data-sharing agreement has been signed by the user. Facewatch will be available to ‘approved’ installers who have been trained on both the practical setup of the cameras and aspects of managing and running the system.

Gavin Dunleavy, Commercial Director, DVS Ltd

“Facial recognition is being discussed within businesses and the wider world by those who understand that the best technologies can deter and prevent crime. Facewatch is the leading facial recognition solution with a focus on the retail sector and other verticals alike.  With GDPR compliance and privacy controls built into the system the solution becomes powerful and legally deployable. Facewatch combines simple CCTV hardware with a secure cloud-based software solution, so accredited training and support is of the utmost importance for our installers to deliver this incredible solution. We will be running training from our HQ initially then across the UK with a plan to have trained and accredited strategic partners in place throughout 2020.”

DVS Company Background

A fast-paced and energetic organisation, DVS has embraced innovative technological advances in the industry and are now one of the industry’s most proficient distributors of IP CCTV products. Formed in 2003, DVS has quickly established itself as one of Europe’s most successful multi-brand distributors of electronic surveillance products. This has been built on significant investment into our superb sales and technical teams, and a state-of-the-art demonstration and training facility located at DVS HQ. Professional and proficient staff, with a fantastic working environment, ensures that customers and suppliers alike always receive a positive impression.

 

Nick Fisher, CEO, Facewatch Ltd

“DVS are a perfect partner for us. They have a highly technical team; they are used to working with the very latest CCTV technology and have a great team on the road and at their HQ offering sales and technical support. Facewatch is a sophisticated SAAS (software as a service) product that requires training and support and DVS have a well-established training team who will work with us to establish a network of approved Facewatch installers. Facewatch is supplied on licence and therefore creates a new recurring income stream for installers who will provide lifelong technical, product management and training support to their customers. We are very excited to announce DVS as our channel partner.”

 

Facewatch company background:

Facewatch have been providing crime prevention solutions to the retail industry for over 10 years. The business was started by Simon Gordon owner of London’s oldest wine bar on the Embankment in London. The Winebar was a target for pickpockets and bag thieves and he wanted to provide a relaxed and safe environment for his customers. Being technology-minded and working with the local police he launched the first-ever online crime reporting system including CCTV footage. This led to the launch of the first facial recognition solution in 2017, enabling retailers to deter habitual criminals who were shoplifting, abusing staff or causing criminal damage.

Today the Facewatch system provides a GDPR compliant solution that is easy to install, can be used and managed by small stores and is scalable for use by large retail groups due to its unique cloud-based servers and using Intel® NUC mini PCs. Data is managed securely by Facewatch. Facewatch doesn’t store information about the general public, just those for whom their retailer subscribers have uploaded confirmed evidence of criminal activity. If a facial image is not matched to a relevant watch list the algorithmic data is instantly deleted.

Figure 1. Facewatch matches faces against known offenders within seconds of them entering a business

Facewatch: block diagram of a system

 

Facewatch solution overview:

Facewatch uses the software-as-a-service technology model, making advanced facial recognition affordable for even small businesses. The company’s watchlist lives on the cloud. It’s a centralized, managed database of biometric data corresponding to the faces of people who are reasonably suspected of having shoplifted or committed other crimes at businesses that subscribe to the service .

The hardware to run Facewatch is simple to deploy. It includes a standard HD CCTV camera and Intel® NUC, a mini-PC that is only 4×4 inches in size and consumes very little power. Its performance enables it to play and record video at 4K Ultra HD clarity, making it ideal for a facial recognition system. The cameras—placed at store entrances—send an image to an on-site NUC loaded with software that converts the image to an algorithm. The algorithm is compared to those in the Facewatch relevant watchlist for that property and if there is a match an alert—along with an accuracy reading—is sent to the retailer’s smartphone or other device, warning it that a known criminal on the watchlist has entered its business.

To add a shoplifter to the watchlist takes only six key presses and about 20 seconds, making it easy for store or security staff, and it doesn’t interfere with their normal duties. “They simply follow a dropdown menu, the time and date are automated, tick the box, the whole thing’s designed to be simple but highly secure and includes a confirmatory legal statement confirming that the information is accurate.” said Nick Fisher, CEO of Facewatch.

 

The solution does not retain any personal data on anyone not on the watchlist. “If no match is discovered, the image is deleted in 0.3 seconds” Fisher said, “and the entire process—from the moment a known shoplifter comes through the door, to the instant the retailer gets an alert—takes less than two seconds.”

 

By Charles Hymas

Home Affairs Editor (The Daily Telegraph)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/authors/charles-hymas/

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When you enter Paul Wilks’ supermarket in Aylesbury, a facial recognition camera by the door snaps your image and then checks it against a “watchlist” of people previously caught shoplifting or abusing staff.

If you are on it, managers receive a “ping” alert on their mobile phones from Facewatch, the private firm that holds the watchlists of suspects, and you will be asked to leave or monitored if you decide you want to walk around the store.

This is not some Big Brother vision of the future but Budgens in Buckinghamshire in Britain 2019.

It is also stark evidence of the way that Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is spreading without regulation potentially intruding on our personal privacy.

For Mr Wilks, it has been a success. Since he introduced it at his 3,000 square foot store a year ago, he says shoplifting has fallen from ten to two incidents a week. The thousands he has saved has more than paid for the technology.

“As well as stopping people, it’s a deterrent. Shoplifters know about it,” says Mr Wilks, who has a prominent poster warning customers they will be subject to facial recognition. “As retailers, we have to find ways to counteract what is going on.”

As the retail sector loses £700 million a year to thefts, Facewatch gives store owners a “self-help” solution to the reluctance of police to investigate petty shoplifting.

It is the brainchild of businessman Simon Gordon, whose own London wine bar Gordons was plagued by pickpockets. Using AI technology provided by Intel, a US multinational, he has bold ambitions to have 5,000 high-resolution facial recognition cameras in operation across the UK by 2022.

His firm is close to a deal with a major UK supermarket chain and already has cameras being used or trialled in 100 stores, garages and other retail outlets.

The lenses are mounted by entry doors to catch a full clean facial image, which is sent to a computer that extracts biometric information to compare it to faces in a database of suspects.

Facewatch says there must be a 99 per cent match before the alert is sent to store staff and in consultation with the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has introduced privacy safeguards including immediate automatic deletion of images of “innocent” faces.

“When CCTV first came out 25 or 30 years ago, people thought it was the end of the world, Big Brother and 1984,” says Stuart Greenfield, a Facewatch executive. Now there are six million cameras in London. People either think they are not working or are there to stop terrorists. No-one really worries about it. Facial recognition is the same. Facebook, Instagram and the airports are using it. It is here to stay but it has to be regulated. Everything needs to be controlled because every technology can be used negatively.”

And there’s the rub. MPs, experts and watchdogs, like the Information Commissioner Ms Elizabeth Denham and Paul Wiles, the biometrics commissioner, are concerned facial recognition technology is becoming established if not widespread with little public debate or regulatory scrutiny. They point to critical questions yet to be resolved.

When should facial technology surveillance be used, in what circumstances and under what conditions? And should consent be required before it is deployed?

Judges in a test case against its use by South Wales Police ruled taking a biometric image of a face is as intrusive as a fingerprint or DNA swab. More significantly, unlike with fingerprints or a swab, people have no choice about whether, where or when their biometric image is snapped.

South Wales Police are thought to have scanned more than 500,000 faces since first deploying facial recognition cameras during the Champions League Final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in June 2017. The Met Police and Leicestershire police have scanned thousands more in their “trials.”

The test case in South Wales was brought by Ed Bridges, a former LibDem councillor, who noticed the cameras when he went out to buy a lunchtime sandwich. He said taking “biometric information without his consent” was a breach of his privacy when he was acting lawfully in a public place.

The judges, however, ruled use of the technology was “proportionate.” They said it was deployed in an “open and transparent” way, for a limited time to identify particular individuals of “justifiable interest” to the police and with publicity campaigns to alert the public in advance.

However, Mr Wiles, the biometrics commissioner, is not convinced that this test case alone should be taken as sufficient justification for a roll-out of police use of facial recognition. “I am not disagreeing with the South Wales Police judgement. What South Wales Police did was lawful,” he says.

“Some uses of Automated Face Recognition in public places when highly targeted – for example scanning the faces of people going into a football match against watchlists of those known to cause trouble in football matches in the past – that is arguably in the public interest.

“However, scanning everyone walking down the street against a watchlist of people you would like to arrest seems to be a bit more difficult because it gets near mass surveillance. I don’t think in this country we have ever really wanted to see police using mass surveillance. That’s what the Chinese are doing with facial recognition. There are some lines between legitimate use to protect people who have committed crimes against a rather different use. It is not for me to say where the line is. Nor should it be the police who say where it is. That’s the debate we are not having. I feel it is frustrating that ministers are not talking about it. And before we ask Parliament to decide, we need to have a public debate.”

Cases have already emerged where Mr Wiles’s line appears to have been crossed. Last year, the Trafford Centre in Manchester had to stop using live facial recognition cameras after the Surveillance Camera Commissioner intervened. Up to 15 million people were scanned during the operation.

At Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre, some two million people are thought to have been scanned in secret police trials last year, according to campaign group Big Brother Watch.

The privately-owned Kings Cross estate in London has also had to switch off its facial recognition cameras after it became public. It later emerged the Met Police shared images of suspects with the property firm without anyone’s consent or senior officers and mayor’s office apparently knowing.

Liverpool’s World Museum scanned visitors with facial recognition cameras during its exhibition, “China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors” in 2018, while Millennium Point conference centre in Birmingham – a scene of demonstrations by trade unionists, football fans and anti-racism campaigners – has deployed it “at the request of law enforcement.”

The Daily Telegraph has revealed Waltham Forest council in London has trialled facial recognition cameras on its streets without residents’ consent and even that AI and facial expression technology is being used for the first time in job interviews to identify the best UK candidates.

As its use widens, one key issue is its reliability and accuracy. The success of the technology’s algorithms in matching a face is improving and is good when there is a high-quality image – as at UK passport control – but less effective with CCTV images that do not always give a clear view.

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology which assesses the ability of algorithms to match a new image to a face in a database estimates it has improved 20-fold between 2014 and 2018.

However, it is by no means infallible. In South Wales, police started in 2017 at a Champions League match with a “true positive” rate – where it got an accurate match with a “suspect” on its database – of just three per cent. This rose to 46 per cent when deployed at the Six Nations rugby last year.

Across all events where deployed, there were 2,900 possible matches of suspects generated by the facial recognition system, of which only 144 were confirmed “true positives” by operators; 2,755 were “false positives,” according to the analysis by Cardiff University. Eighteen people were arrested.

The researchers found performance fell as light faded and was less accurate if faces were obscured by clothing, glasses or jewellery. They concluded it should be viewed as “assisted” rather than “automated” facial recognition, as the decision on whether there was a match was a police officer’s.

Professor Peter Fussey, from Essex University, who reviewed the Met Police trials of the technology, said only eight of the 42 “matches” that they saw thrown up by the technology were accurate.

Sixteen were instantly rejected in the van as it was clear they were the “wrong ethnicity, wrong sex or ten years younger,” he said. Four were then lost in the crowd, which left 22 suspects who were then approached by a police officer in the street to show their id or be mobile fingerprinted.

Of these, 14 were inaccurate and just eight were correct.

In the febrile world of facial recognition, how you measure success is a source of debate. It could be argued you have high 90 per cent-plus accuracy given the cameras scan thousands of faces to pick out the 42. Or you can measure it according to the ratio of “false positives” to accurate matches.

On human rights grounds, Professor Fussey said his concern was consent and legitimacy. In Berlin and Nice, the trials have been conducted where volunteers have signed up to be “members of the public” to test the facial recognition technology.

By contrast, in the Met police trial in Romford, he saw one young man targeted after being seen to avoid the facial recognition cameras which were signposted as in operation. “He was stopped and searched and had a small quantity of cannabis on him and was arrested,” he said.

He may have acted suspiciously by trying to avoid the camera but he was not a suspect on any “watch list,” nor had he consented to take part in the “trial.”

“For me, one of the big issues is around the definition of ‘wanted’,” said Professor Fussey. “There is ‘wanted by the courts’ where someone has absconded and there is judicial oversight. Then there is ‘wanted by the police’ which is wanted for questioning or wanted on the basis of suspicion.”

South Wales police was careful to prepare four watchlists: red – those who posed a risk to public safety, amber – offenders with previous convictions, green – those whose presence did not pose any risk, blue – police officers’ faces to test the system.

However, human rights campaigners cite as an example police databases that hold the images of 21 million innocent people who have been arrested or in custody but never convicted.

It has been ruled such databases are illegal but so great is the task of processing and deleting them that progress on doing so has stalled.

So concerned is the Commons science and technology committee that in its recent report on face recognition it called for a moratorium on its use until rules on its deployment are agreed.

Professor Wiles sums it up:

“There are some uses that are not in the public interest. What that raises is who should make that decision about those uses. The one thing I am clear about is that the people who want to use facial recognition technology should not be the people who make that decision. It ought to be decided by a body that represents the public interest and the most obvious one is Parliament. There should be governance backed by legislation. Parliament should decide, yes, this is in the public interest provided these conditions are met. We have done that with DNA. Parliament said it’s in the public interest that the police can derive profiles of individuals from DNA but it’s not in the public interest that police could keep the samples. You can tell a lot more about a person from a sample. It’s important because if you get it wrong, the police will lose public trust and in Britain, we have a historic tradition of policing by consent.”

Ms Denham, the Information Commissioner, is to publish the results of her investigation into facial recognition, which she says should only be deployed where there is “demonstrable evidence” that it is “necessary, proportionate and effective.”

She has demanded police and other organisations using facial technology must ensure safeguards are in place including assessments of how it will affect people before each deployment and a clear public policy on why it is being used.

“There remain significant privacy and data protection issues that must be addressed and I remain deeply concerned about the rollout of this technology,” she says.