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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.

 

 

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.

 

If you think criminals are getting away with it, think again! Narrated by Rav Wilding, this series shows how smart technology and specialist tactics are being used to bring offenders to justice.

Nick Fisher and Simon Gordon – tell the true story of Facewatch and how it is deterring crime across the retail sector.

All episodes are now live on BBC Iplayer:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000tq65/frontline-fightback

 

 

 

Nick Fisher talks about the challenges for retailers and how they are managing crime and violence

If you run a business that’s about standing up for individuals privacy rights in a democratic country and rely on creating headline news to encourage people to financially support you, it looks like challenging times ahead. Greater issues such as climate change, famine, racism, crime, immigration, Brexit and of course this awful pandemic will continue to be the headlines for some time to come.

 

However, if this is your strategy and you hope to attract and engage advocates of your position, it would serve you well to accurately reflect the truth and demonstrate at least some understanding of your subjects’ proposition and how it works before potentially playing with people’s lives. That is unless your strategy is to purposefully misrepresent the facts, propagate untruths, create sensationalism, or instill fear.

 

The facts are, Facewatch uses facial recognition to protect employees and business against criminals. Our algorithms are highly accurate, tested frequently by NIST and currently rank as the best in the Western World. Facewatch goes above and beyond GDPR legislation when processing and managing data, implementing self-imposed rules and additional levels of security and transparency beyond legislative requirements. Contrary to incorrect reports, there are no secrets to any Facewatch deployment, clear signage is a mandatory requirement of use. Furthermore, our customers have published testimonials, with all reporting significant reductions in crime, employees feeling safer and no effect whatsoever on footfall.

Retail crime is at an all-time high and verbal and violent assaults on employees is the norm, some reports indicating an 80% increase year on year!  Protecting your most valuable asset, your people is an imperative of all responsible retailers. So, while the challenging retail climate exists, deploying facial recognition could quickly evolve from a nice to have to a necessity in the same way as CCTV did before it. The CO-OP must be commended for their pro-action in adopting the latest and some would argue the safest technology that lawfully protects the welfare of their employees and customers alike.

 

The truth is that there are no privacy concerns from the overwhelming majority of the general public. The interests of the law-abiding individual trumps all or should so in the moral public’s perception. It’s the sensational, alarmist and misrepresentative narrative repeatedly trotted out by civil liberty groups that aim to cause disruption and concern. This fanciful inference that your data will be secretly recorded and stored, that modern-day algorithms are severely inaccurate and innocent people will be flagged and recorded as criminals is complete nonsense, stated without any evidence and simply designed to cause alarm. Using terms to describe facial recognition as deeply chilling and more associated with the Stasi or dictatorships is an insult to responsible businesses who with complete transparency are aiming to protect the welfare and well being of their employees and customers. All this commentary is given without any insight whatsoever as to how private facial recognition (Facewatch) operates. It would do the civil liberty groups some good to get out of their ivory towers and spend some time in the very environments that Facewatch is deployed. Who knows, it may even lead to them demonstrate some understanding and empathy towards retail employees and the daily challenges they face in modern-day Britain, rather than championing the rights of violent offenders and thieves!

A family business with an eye for the future 

Simon Lawrence

Simon Lawrence, Director, Lawrences Garages Ltd

My great grandfather started his first garage serving fuel in 1919 in StockwellSW LondonIt was a big gamble then as the petrol pump had only just been invented but its early success has led to 5 generations of Lawrence’s running forecourt garages. Trying to be the best at what we do, having a friendly team and keeping and eye on the future has ensured that whatever changes and challenges occur we try to be flexible and positive.

This last six months has really tested us. It’s good to know we are part of the community. We also know that this pandemic has made it easier for thieves to steal from our stores. We were fortunate that in 2019 we made the decision to install another new technology, in the footsteps of our great grandfatherusing facial recognition to help us recognise habitual thieves and troublemakers that frequent our store in Southampton. 

We know Facewatch has reduced losses, and empowered our front-line team, they have great pride in what they do and want their store to be safe for themselves and customers. Re-running CCTV to find a thief and adding them to the watch list is done with satisfaction I do, however, view the future both with trepidation and excitement. What will be the future for fuel stations? Electric, hydrogen, we are looking at them all and what value we add.  Will Lawrences offer home delivery and will those new customers we have met recently keep coming for not just flour but all their every day shopping? 

We have also found that crime has gone down significantly since using Facewatch as word has got out that we are not so easy and there are other softer targets”

During July we asked a selection of Facewatch customers a series of questions about their experience with Facewatch.

The feedback showed that all those asked found that Facewatch had reduced shop theft but also helped in reducing anti-social behaviour whilst giving the front of house teams more confidence especially when working after dark and with reduced numbers.

The UK economy has now entered a recession due to the pandemic and as has been found historically crime and anti-social behaviour has been shown to increase during these periods. We also have the additional challenges of preventing a second wave of Covid 19 and there is more focus on reducing contact in all situations. This new ‘contactless normal’ has shown that facial recognition is a very powerful tool in helping reduce all types of contact.

CustomerfeedbackJuly2020fv1

In a wide-ranging discussion, Nick and Gavin talk about the major escalation of problems on the high street brought about by the pandemic. This is a must-watch for CCTV installers and retailers who need a solution to reduce their losses and help shopworker moral

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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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