Maori woman misidentified by Foodstuffs facial recognition system

Occurred: April 2024

A Maori woman was misidentified by a facial recognition system at a supermarket in New Zealand, accused of being a shoplifter and thrown out. 

Te Ani Solomon was misidentified as a trespassed 'thief' by the AI system at a Foodstuffs supermarket in Rotorua, New Zealand, and accosted by staff who accused her of being a shoplifter and insisted she leave, even after she had offered three forms of photo identification. 

Solomon said she saw an image on a phone they had been looking at that appeared to be of a Māori woman wearing a cap, and that she she felt 'racially discriminated' against and embarrassed during the 'horrible' incident, which took place on her birthday.

Foodstuffs was conducting a six-month trial of a facial recognition system in 25 of its stores in an attempt to reduce shoplifting. A spokesperson said the company regretted the incident and that it had been caused by 'genuine human error.'

The incident prompted concerns about the inaccuracy and racial bias inherent in facial recognition systems. The incident also spurred critics to point out the 'highly intrusive' nature of the technology, with shoppers seen to have no choice but to 'give up their data, whether they like it or not.'

System 🤖

Operator: Foodstuffs
Country: New Zealand
Sector: Retail
Purpose: Strengthen security
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity; Privacy
Transparency: Governance

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️