Sports Direct and Flannels criticised for installing facial recognition security cameras
Frasers Group, the owner of Sports Direct and Flannels, has installed controversial facial recognition cameras in 27 stores to identify potential thieves.
The high street retailer’s biometric cameras scan the faces of shoppers and check them against a database of suspected criminals. Staff at Sports Direct and Flannels, owned by billionaire Mike Ashley, are then alerted when artificial intelligence (AI) cameras spot an offender. In these instances, staff can either escort offenders from the shop or closely monitor them.
A spokesman for Frasers Group said it was using the cameras "to ensure the safety of our staff and to help prevent theft".
Civil liberties campaigners claimed millions of shoppers will be subjected to 'Orwellian surveillance', whilst the Information Commissioner's Office revealed that it was investigating whether their use is lawful.
On the other hand, retailers are pressured to take action amid an epidemic of shoplifting and the police's response to arrest thieves. According to the British Retail Consortium, shoplifting in the UK has sky rocketed from 2.9 million cases in 2016-17 to 7.9 million in 2022. As a result of this, the cost to retailers almost doubled from £503 million to £953 million in the same period.
Daniel Garnham, an ex-police officer and president of the Security Industry Federation, said police regard shoplifters who steal items worth less than £200 as a 'low priority' and will not arrest them. Therefore, retailers are no longer calling the police when items are stolen.
Nick Fisher, the Chief Executive of Facewatch, added that the new system is preventing "thousands of crimes a month".
Frasers Group, which boasts more than 950 stores in the UK, has confirmed that the rollout will continue, raising the prospect that the technology could soon be commonplace on the high street.