The Privacy Commissioner says he has concerns about a six-month trial of facial recognition technology which is under way at a number of North Island New World and Pak’nSave stores.
I do not believe for one second that Supermarkets would gain enormous psychological profiling insight like watching people as they shop to then not use that enormous insight.
I expect them to exploit that footage for their own use and I expect them to sell that data to any third party.
In short I expect our Supermarkets to fuck us over and over and over again, just as they have since they established the Duopoly.
This isn’t about fucking security, they don’t give a shit about their workers or else they would pay them properly and establish better security guards, this is an enormous investment into face recognition technology that is sold to you as safety but is all about gaining unparalleled psychometric data and bundling that off to third parties.
This isn’t about your security, this is mass surveillance and data mining from a company who can only pull this stunt off because of their duopoly power.
Blogger Danny Mekić makes the point that the current drive for self check outs creates a dynamic that makes it more profitable to screw over workers…
The rise of self-scanning checkouts in supermarkets has a side effect: one in three loyal customers turns into petty thieves. According to scientists at the University of Leicester, this is because shops with self-scanning checkouts give customers ready-made excuses to take away merchandise without paying, and provoke behaviour that allows the self-scanning customers to ‘neutralise’ their guilt. A forgotten scan here, an accusing finger pointing at a faltering barcode there – these are small acts that add up to a dance of theft, while customers can delude themselves that it is ‘pay in kind’ for having to scan far too expensive groceries themselves.
The irony? Supermarkets keep installing self-scanning checkouts. Why? Because it pays off. In an industry where staff costs are skyrocketing, every saving is a step towards profit maximisation. And what turns out? The kleptomaniac customer is paradoxically cheaper than a cashier. So shoplifting, once a criminal and morally reprehensible act, becomes a profitable part of the revenue model.
To reduce theft somewhat, customers are automatically punished for ‘bad’ shopping behaviour. It is reminiscent of a penal colony: anyone who, according to the unfathomable algorithm, walks ‘too slowly’ through the aisles or stays somewhere ‘too long’ is met at the self-scanning checkout, forced to undergo a mandatory check and empty their bags. To prevent customers from getting fed up with this inhuman treatment and returning to the expensive friendly cashiers, traditional checkouts are understaffed, creating long queues. Thus, self-scanning becomes an ‘attractive’ alternative. By opting for self-scanning, even more staff can be laid off and queues at traditional checkouts remain long, further reinforcing the system of profit maximisation through control and distrust. This paradoxically awakens in even more people a dancing petty thief.
Theft is illegal and cannot be condoned, and in this case it is also a conscious business choice. And the business model works: in the Netherlands, shoplifting rose to record levels last year. Some chains, like Vomar, are putting their self-scanning experiments on hold, while others, like Ahold, admit that self-scanning thefts are profitable and made record profits last year.
And so self-scanning checkouts and kleptomaniacs lead to less work and more profit for the supermarket, and paradoxically to more work for the already overburdened police. This has also caught the eye of D66 MP Joost Sneller, according to whom the police have become the “security of the wholesale retail sector” at taxpayers’ expense, who raised parliamentary questions about this last Wednesday.
The supermarket industry is already feeling the pinch and thinking about solutions. Retail expert Eelco Hos has a better idea than bringing back the expensive cashier to curb customers’ kleptomania: more cameras, image recognition and artificial intelligence ‘that flawlessly monitor which products a customer leaves a shop with’. He says it could also be ‘more repressive’: automatically taking photos of customers who forget to scan a product and forwarding those photos to staff who can open the hunt for the customer. He also knows one retailer who has already applied this.
…so the supermarkets screw over workers by bringing in self check outs which benefit the supermarket and to weed out thieves we all have to be filmed and that data then mined.
If we are apathetic enough to allow the supermarket duopoly to form in the first place, we are stupid enough to give them mass surveillance powers.
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