If you’ve been through a self-checkout kiosk at Target or Walmart recently, you probably noticed the camera recording your every move as you scan your items. The purpose of the Walmart camera was clear in a 2017 patent filing: to detect frustrated or unhappy customers. The retail giant now faces a class action lawsuit.
In April, Joseph Carlos Valesquez filed the lawsuit in a state court in California. Last month, that lawsuit appeared in a federal court. Law360 and others reported that the suit alleges that Walmart violates Golden State privacy law by using video
cameras to record customers’ facial features at self-checkout kiosks. More specifically, capturing images of customers as they make credit card transaction violates the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act.
Per Law360, the complaint alleges that these cameras aren’t just for security purposes.
“[T]he cameras aren’t used exclusively for security purposes, but rather to provide Walmart with valuable biometric information about shoppers, like Valesquez.”
Prior to Walmart’s patent, Amazon was already making its own facial recognition technology available to anyone under its Amazon Web Services, The New York Times reported last month.
Amazon was soon shopping its technology to local law enforcement. It touted that “the program could aid criminal investigations by recognizing suspects in photos and videos.”
It also listed the Orlando Police Department in Florida and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon as early adopters to encourage others.
The ACLU sounded the privacy alarm by posting that the company had entered the surveillance industry and was teaming up with the government to “deploy dangerous new facial recognition technology” called Rekognition.
Through marketing materials and documents from three states, the ACLU found that “the product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights.” Here’s how:
“Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces.”
Quartz reports that facial recognition technology is already underway in China, with apprehensions curiously occurring after one music legend’s concerts.
The ACLU reminds citizens that the reining in of this technology has to occur now because once these surveillance systems are in place, usage will spread and “the harm will be extremely difficult to undo.”