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'The guy looks nothing like me': Black man says he was falsely identified as shoplifter by one of Rite Aid's 200 facial recognition cameras placed predominantly in low-income, non-white areas of LA and Manhattan

A sweeping investigative report has revealed that drugstore chain Rite Aid quietly added facial recognition systems to 200 stores across the U.S. in an attempt to bust repeat shoplifters.
The Reuters investigation found facial recognition cameras at 33 of the 75 Rite Aid shops in Manhattan and the central Los Angeles metropolitan area during one or more visits from October through July.
Among the 75 stores Reuters visited, those in areas that were poorer or less white were much more likely to have the equipment, the news agency´s statistical analysis found. 
In Los Angeles, Tristan Jackson-Stankunas spoke out to say that said Rite Aid wrongly fingered him as a shoplifter based on someone else's photo. 
When confronted with the information from the investigation, which found cases of misidentification, Rite Aid said that it had disconnected all of the cameras and discontinued use of facial recognition.
A woman shops inside a Rite Aid store underneath a DeepCam facial recognition security camera in New York City in November 2019
A woman shops inside a Rite Aid store underneath a DeepCam facial recognition security camera in New York City in November 2019
A Rite Aid store located at 3rd and Vermont is shown in Los Angeles. A new investigation revealed hundreds of stores using facial recognition cameras
A Rite Aid store located at 3rd and Vermont is shown in Los Angeles. A new investigation revealed hundreds of stores using facial recognition cameras
In Los Angeles, Tristan Jackson-Stankunas (above) spoke out to say that said Rite Aid wrongly fingered him as a shoplifter based on someone else's photo
In Los Angeles, Tristan Jackson-Stankunas (above) spoke out to say that said Rite Aid wrongly fingered him as a shoplifter based on someone else's photo
While Reuters could not confirm the method Rite Aid used to identify him, the store had FaceFirst technology by that time, according to a Rite Aid security agent and a Foursquare review photo showing the camera.
According to a complaint Jackson-Stankunas filed with the California Department of Consumer Affairs a week after the incident, he was looking for air freshener in September 2016 when a manager ordered him to leave the store. 
The manager said he had received a security image of Jackson-Stankunas taken at another Rite Aid in 2013 from which he allegedly had stolen goods, according to the complaint.
When Jackson-Stankunas viewed the photo on the manager's phone, he told Reuters, he saw nothing in common with the person except their race: Both are black.
'The guy looks nothing like me,' said Jackson-Stankunas, 34, who ultimately was allowed to make his purchase and leave the store. Rite Aid 'only identified me because I was a person of color. That´s it.'
The California department told him his complaint fell outside its purview, directing him to another state office, email records show. Instead, he said he decided to write the store a bad review on Yelp.
This chart shows the distribution of stores with and without facial recognition based on the poverty level and racial demographics of the surrounding area
This chart shows the distribution of stores with and without facial recognition based on the poverty level and racial demographics of the surrounding area
A Rite Aid store worker looks over security camera footage from facial recognition cameras in one of the company's stores in downtown Los Angeles in October
A Rite Aid store worker looks over security camera footage from facial recognition cameras in one of the company's stores in downtown Los Angeles in October
Organization highlights dangers of facial recognition technology
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Rite Aid and the manager who allegedly was involved declined to comment on Jackson-Stankunas' account.

Over the course of eight years, Rite Aid deployed facial recognition technology in its stores, and for more than a year, the retailer used state-of-the-art facial recognition technology from a company with links to China and its authoritarian government, according to Reuters.
In telephone and email exchanges with Reuters since February, Rite Aid confirmed the existence and breadth of its facial recognition program. 
The retailer defended the technology's use, saying it had nothing to do with race and was intended to deter theft and protect staff and customers from violence. Reuters found no evidence that Rite Aid's data was sent to China.
Last week, however, after Reuters sent its findings to the retailer, Rite Aid said it had quit using its facial recognition software. It later said all the cameras had been turned off.
'This decision was in part based on a larger industry conversation,' the company told Reuters in a statement, adding that 'other large technology companies seem to be scaling back or rethinking their efforts around facial recognition given increasing uncertainty around the technology´s utility.'
Reuters pieced together how the company´s initiative evolved, how the software has been used and how a recent vendor was linked to China, drawing on thousands of pages of internal documents from Rite Aid and its suppliers, as well as direct observations during store visits by Reuters journalists and interviews with more than 40 people familiar with the systems' deployment. 
Most current and former employees spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared jeopardizing their careers.
A woman shops inside a Rite Aid store underneath a DeepCam security camera in New York City on June 25
A woman shops inside a Rite Aid store underneath a DeepCam security camera in New York City on June 25
While Rite Aid declined to disclose which locations used the technology, Reuters found facial recognition cameras at 33 of the 75 Rite Aid shops in Manhattan and the central Los Angeles metropolitan area during one or more visits from October through July.
The cameras were easily recognizable, hanging from the ceiling on poles near store entrances and in cosmetics aisles. Most were about half a foot long, rectangular and labeled either by their model, 'iHD23,' or by a serial number including the vendor´s initials, 'DC.' In a few stores, security personnel - known as loss prevention or asset protection agents - showed Reuters how they worked.
The cameras matched facial images of customers entering a store to those of people Rite Aid previously observed engaging in potential criminal activity, causing an alert to be sent to security agents´ smartphones. Agents then reviewed the match for accuracy and could tell the customer to leave.
Rite Aid told Reuters in a February statement that customers had been apprised of the technology through 'signage' at the shops, as well as in a written policy posted this year on its website. Reporters found no notice of the surveillance in more than a third of the stores they visited with the facial recognition cameras.
Among the 75 stores Reuters visited, those in areas that were poorer or less white were much more likely to have the equipment, the news agency´s statistical analysis found.
Stores in more impoverished areas were nearly three times as likely as those in richer areas to have facial recognition cameras. Seventeen of 25 stores in poorer areas had the systems. In wealthier areas, it was 10 of 40. (Ten of the stores were in areas whose wealth status was not clear. Six of those stores had the equipment.)
In areas where people of color, including Black or Latino residents, made up the largest racial or ethnic group, Reuters found that stores were more than three times as likely to have the technology.
Reuters´ findings illustrate 'the dire need for a national conversation about privacy, consumer education, transparency, and the need to safeguard the Constitutional rights of Americans,' said Carolyn Maloney, the Democratic chairwoman of the House oversight committee, which has held hearings on the use of facial recognition technology.
A woman shops inside a Rite Aid store underneath a DeepCam security camera in New York City on June 25
A woman shops inside a Rite Aid store underneath a DeepCam security camera in New York City on June 25
Rite Aid said the rollout was 'data-driven,' based on stores´ theft histories, local and national crime data and site infrastructure.
Cathy Langley, Rite Aid´s vice president of asset protection, said earlier this year that facial recognition - which she referred to as 'feature matching' - resulted in less violence and organized crime in the company´s stores. Last week, however, Rite Aid said its new leadership team was reviewing practices across the company, and 'this was one of a number of programs that was terminated.'

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the cameras are in predominantly in low-income, non-white areas of LA and Manhattan because that is where most of the shop lifting occurs?
    Ther are no bear traps in areas with no bears.

    ReplyDelete