I spy with my 5 Eyes something beginning with Supermarket


Foodstuffs’ facial recognition tech trial concerns Privacy Commissioner

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…

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

To boost profits even further, supermarkets now want to ‘steal’ our privacy with AI surveillance

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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  1. Time to #boycottfoodstuffs
    It’s not enough for them to harvest our data in exchange for a miserly loyalty card discount, they want your biometrics.

  2. sod ’em I say!

    It is a US model, monetisation of capturing personal information, the initial photo is called an “enrolment” into the Foodstuffs system. Likely you will have to take off your hat or glasses for your “enrolment” or be refused admission to their poxy store. This presents problems for those that live in areas with only one supermarket.

    Research has showed that those most likely to have mistaken identities for tech reasons are darker skinned persons and darker skinned female persons in particular! WTF.

    The bottom line is if we cannot trust these fuckers regarding profiteering and $4 cans of baked beans why should they be trusted with grabbing very personal data?

  3. I have certainly witnessed brazen shoplifting at a supermarket (as in some well-dressed teens having a meal in the isle while pretending to shop). pointed it out and was just smirked at by the staff. No security even called. Why the hell should I pay their prices while others don’t?

    Someone might be able to tell me why security guards supposedly can’t do anything in a supermarket, or mall, but some harmless ‘stripper’ runs across a rugby field, and they can spear tackle them and basically assault them. Is that some sort of trespass issue or something?

    • wheel I used to frequent a small cafe in the Wellington CBD where the diminutive Asian owners told me that college boys come in after school and help themselves to cool drinks and walk out again without paying, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

      • Well it absolutely sucks that those cafe owners would have to deal with that. I found the scale of an outfit like Foodstuffs gives me a different expectation of their response. Clearly that looks unrealistic.

    • It’s hardly the fault of security guards, sir. We all know that particular busted ‘escort’ would have been very angry had she _not_ been arrested and the subject of news stories as a result. There was no possibility of consequences unless she’d popped a fake boob. And the security guards involved knew that they’d be supported by the owners of the venue, and the media broadcasting from there that were disrupted.

      A security guard in a supermarket or mall isn’t going to do that. They’ve already been told by their employer, and the management at the place they’re contracted to, that they won’t be supported and will likely be fired if they do get hands on. If they were to detain someone, the cops won’t come and even if they do come and arrest a thief and the thief is charged, they won’t be paid for their time attending court even if they haven’t already been fired.

      And you shouldn’t blame the cops. I know good cops who’d be happy to go a lot harder than they’re allowed to do against the ‘enemies of society’ by the current police policy, as long as it’s in accordance with decent human morality of course. The same guys volunteer helping kids on the margin, coaching sports teams and the like.

      It’s not that hard to define the problem. The deliberate creation of economic and social circumstances that encourage people to be broken from their roots, disconnected from their parents and cousins and their wider tribe, even their own children and spouses.

      The weirdos of the fake ‘left’-neoliberal wing of the neoliberal uniparty, Labour and the Greens, offer some kind of totally disconnected brotherhood of m̶a̶n̶ persons. An interesting theory, but it has never been tried and seems unlikely to work. The weirdos of the fake ‘right’ wing of the neoliberal uniparty, National and Act, suggest a ‘classical liberal’ solution of nihilistic individualism will work better. Now that was tried in Britain back in the Victorian era that they so admire, the results of that libertarian experiment were the victims of Jack the Ripper.

      I like what the Maori Party is doing. If you’re mad about the fact that they’re working to advance their people, well, you got a choice. You could keep whining or you could have a think about whether having less broken Maori families would in fact benefit you, whether you’re Maori or not. You could have a think about what you can do for you and yours, in the way those Maori Party fellas are doing. Talk to your mum and dad, talk to your kids, talk to your cousins, talk to your folk.

      Now, in an ideal world, all we need to do is turn back the clock to when the nasty evil neoliberals and their freakish policies were laughed at. In the long term, we can bring back mental hospitals to treat the victims of belief in neoliberalism and other dangerous mental illnesses. It might take a while, but we’ll never have a functional society without doing this.

      • I meant any streaker ( shouldn’t have said stripper) or person sprinting on to the field not the Hamilton lady.

        I am also not interested in the underlying drivers of neo liberalism and failure to address causes. Until they start to, I don’t see why I have to pay while others help themselves. Especially the incident I saw. Two smart arse young females dressed with lots labels and not looking remotely desperate

  4. As I’ve written here before.
    We’re being set up, groomed into accepting ever greater intrusions into our private lives and working environments to have us become compliant and powerless to stop that which is already here and is being felt in that kind of ” Jesus! Did that just happen!? ” sort of way. We’re unwittingly supplying our soon-to-be ‘managers’ with data that will be weaponised and used against us in time to come. In short, and I’m not that short, when we finally notice that they’ve implemented systems which will enslave us they’ll already be ten steps ahead of us. We’re losing our AO/NZ. It’s being traded by the Natzo’s who are the real criminal neo-liberal traitors in our midst. Think a Cuckoo chick on Meth.
    “Are there cuckoos in New Zealand?
    Two cuckoo species breed in New Zealand. Both are migratory, arriving in spring to breed and flying north to Pacific islands for winter. Like most cuckoos, both lay their eggs in the nests of other species, which incubate them and then rear the chicks.”
    Poverty is an introduced species that preys upon working class people who are easily manipulated who are then used to argue for greater predator control. And by predator control I mean we’ll be under the control of the predators already circling the our nesting grounds. That, was a metaphor BTW. Think past someone shop lifting a bag of chips and a jar of dip and see where this narrative can travel to. National’s neo-liberalism stole our hope and our sense of being a people and replaced it with The Warehouse mentality, shopping Malls and suicide. And now, we have irreversible climate change setting fire to South and Central Asia, the middle East, India, the USA, both ends and Africa, so almost everywhere basically.
    We’re in fucking trouble because we’re so important. We’re isolated, we grow foods and we have endless supplies of water. Our AO/NZ’s larger than the UK by about 30K sq km and there are only 5.2 million of us, at this point. We should be very concerned. Shitting bricks springs to mind.
    P.S. Your any image of you is your property. * Not theirs. If someone takes your photograph without your consent, then fuck them up.
    * It’s a different thing if you’re within the public domain. You think supermarkets a public domain? Break into one after hours and eat all the ice cream and see what happens to you. You’ll get some lovely pictures taken of you.

  5. funny when china started this a few years ago it was evil communist party oppression but now our capitalists want do it..’nothing to hide nothing to fear’
    it’s much less effective correctly identifying people of colour
    and do we want a private data base of alleged criminals and a likely innacurate blacklist
    can I sue the arses off the supermarket incorrectly misidentifies me??

    • Ironically, the GINESE GOMMUNIST PARTY (CEE CEE PEE) so often derided by meth-smoking American-loving libertarians has actually cracked down on this sort of nonsense.

      Cameras are indeed used as part of a general policy of not allowing American-sponsored terrorists to stab people to death for fun. But nasty evil people like the owners of Foodstuffs and Woolworths face far higher barriers before being allowed to spy on the people of China.

  6. I thought self-scanning checkouts were due to avaricious supermarket owners trying to get their customers to subsidise them by doing even more of the work. I now choose Mitre 20 rather than Bunnings for certain things because Mitre 10 have a proper checkout manned by persons paid to do so and they are mighty helpful at a personal level for product challenged people like me.

    The nearest NWS has a traditional manned checkout, but Countdown try to push people into self-scanning. It’s hard on the mainly young workers having to engage with thieving and bullying customers, but they’re the ones whose jobs and income are directly under threat from facial recognition technology, and of course the data will be mined and sold on if there’s a quick buck to be made from it. The privacy ramifications are massive.

      • Gagarin. Good. Bunnings did a bag search on me once, and I didn’t like that either. But it’s their self- scanning which propelled me to Mitre 10, even though Bunnings may have been cheaper. My offspring offered to do the Bunnings gig with me, but that’s not the point. I’ve seen older customers visibly stressed doing the Countdown self-scan, even tho’ some cs person is usually wafting around.

        • swn you can refuse a search and insist they call a cop to search your bag all the ‘we reserve the right to search bags’ carry no legal weight

  7. ” 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. ”

    Yes to that statement above. YES ! apathy and stupidity.

    Stupidity is how we ended up with the current three way corrupt circus we have in government now.

    Sadly this face recognition is just the beginning and the mark up on your groceries the duopoly pockets will be paying for it in this case New Zealand’s very own mercenary grocery giant Foodstuffs.

    ” So shoplifting, once a criminal and morally reprehensible act, becomes a profitable part of the revenue model.”

    Neoliberalism and profit before anything else has reached its zenith and seems to be leading to the slow breakdown over the disintigration of our laws.

    • If you exclude the large numbers of people attempting to flee the country, the remainder are apparently unaware that the current trajectory is a one-way ticket to Third World status. Such is the level of propaganda emanating from the press barons and broadcasting moguls.

      New York City and San Francisco are present-day examples of what the next phase of lawlessness and social degradation will look like. The final destination is Argentina or Brazil: countries that could easily become indistinguishable from Spain and Portugal, but that are too corrupt and lacking in national sovereignty to do so.

      • Kristoff R. No one would ever have expected the everyday department store precinct of Oxford Street, London, to be now peopled by doorway sleepers, and good shops closing. Marks and Spencer’s have closed branches, and even solid Fenwick’s going. Some of this is due to online shopping and some to unbridled immigration and refugee-ism, without the infrastructure or the resources to cope, or, some might say, the will. The breakdown of society impacts primarily upon the ‘have-nots’ who can never buffer themselves the way the ‘haves’‘can, and who suffer the painful consequences of e.g a crumbling national health service and increased privatisation, just like here. Why Bill English wanted this for Kiwis is beyond me, and that grubby little double- dipper now overseeing housing problems which his government helped to bring about, is obscene. The identity politics dynamic of ‘divide and rule’ has been fairly effective in diverting attention from what Orwell predicted and is happening right now.

  8. There are already cameras in supermarkets to monitor public servants and thieves. Supermarkets should concentrate on building employment opportunities and optimizing the shopping experience for the 99.9%, there must be a compromise here.

    • ‘Public servants’? If only we had supermarkets that were actually run in the interests of the people of New Zealand.

      I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but being ripped off- the sole goal of every supermarket in NZ- is not exactly optimizing the experience for any human being in New Zealand.

  9. A local oddball transgender woman I know well, was wrongly accused of shoplifting in a local supermarket. A solicitor neighbour sorted it. Along the track, a mall security guard who had not been present at the time, accosted this person, insisted that they were “ banned”, and asked why they wore women’s clothing. So much for security guards. The lawyer sorted that too, but not everybody has helpful lawyer neighbours.

    Back in cheque days, Pak’n’Save introduced fingerprinting, to combat dodgy cheques. They asked to fingerprint me, publicly, at the checkout, it was quite unpleasant. I spoke with the manager and declined to be fingerprinted.

    The cashless society which the banks want, will exacerbate all of these issues.

  10. I just called my local Pak n Save and asked if they have the facial recognition. They said not yet but all Pak n Save stores will be getting them including them.

    • covid is pa. If that’s Pak’n’ Save Petone, they’re the ones who wanted to take my finger prints at the checkout. Pak’n’ Save Kilbirnie, have such deafeningly loud music/ announcements that I’ve worn headphones, before giving up on that shop altogether. A local Countdown now has a weekly quiet afternoon period, with nicely dimmed lights, for “ sensitive persons”, which suggests they know damn well that their sensory assaults can be counterproductive – for them.

      Another NWS offended many customers by blaring announcements telling them to watch out that their kiddies didn’t fall out of the trolleys, seemingly assuming that their customers are all dimwits.


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