Home Bargains shopper misidentified by Facewatch facial recognition

Occurred: May 2024 

An innocent shopper at retail chain Home Bargains was wrongfully accused of theft due to an error in a facial recognition system, prompting public controversy and a legal complaint.

The woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, was incorrectly identified by the Facewatch facial recognition system as a shoplifter. A staff member searched her bag and she was led out of the store. She was also banned from all stores using the Facewatch technology.

The woman reported that she was devastated by the incident and it caused her significant anxiety and distress. She was worried about being perceived as a shoplifter despite never having stolen anything. Facewatch later acknowledged the error and issued an apology.

This incident highlights some of the potential issues with facial recognition technology, including false positives and the human rights and psychological impacts on innocent individuals. 

Despite these concerns, the technology is increasingly being used by retailers and police forces in the UK.

Operator: Home Bargains
Developer: Facewatch
Country: UK
Sector: Retail
Purpose: Identify criminals
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Human/civil rights; Safety
Transparency: Governance

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