ICO Investigation Into Police Use of Facial Recognition Technology

ICO head Elizabeth Dunham is reported to have launched a formal investigation into how police forces use facial recognition technology (FRT) after high failure rates, misidentifications and worries about legality, bias, and privacy.

Concerns Expressed In Blog Post In May

In a blog post on the ICO website back in May, Elizabeth Dunham expressed several concerns about how FRT was being operated and managed. For example, although she acknowledged that there may be significant public safety benefits from using FRT, Elizabeth Dunham highlighted concerns about:

  • A possible lack of transparency in FRT’s use by police and how there is a real risk that the public safety benefits derived from the use of FRT will not be gained if public trust is not addressed.
  • The absence of national level co-ordination in assessing the privacy risks and a comprehensive governance framework to oversee FRT deployment.  This has since been addressed to an extent by an oversight panel, and by the appointment of a National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) lead for the governance of the use of FRT technology in public spaces.
  • The use and retaining of images captured using FRT.
  • The need for clear evidence to demonstrate that the use of FRT in public spaces is effective in resolving the problem that it aims to address, and that it is no more intrusive than other methods.

Commissioner Dunham said that that legal action would be taken if the Home Office did not address her concerns.

Notting Hill Carnival & Football Events in South Wales

Back in May 2017, South Wales and Gwent Police forces announced that it would be running a trial of ‘real-time’ facial recognition technology on Champions League final day in Cardiff. In June, the trial of FRT at the final was criticised for costing £177,000 and yet only resulted in one arrest of a local man whose arrest was unconnected.

Also, after trials of FRT at the 2016 and 2017 Notting Hill Carnivals, Police faced criticism that it was ineffective, racially discriminatory, and confused men with women.

Research

Recent research by the University of Cardiff, which examined the use of the technology across a number of sporting and entertainment events in Cardiff for over a year, including the UEFA Champion’s League Final and the Autumn Rugby Internationals found that for 68% of submissions made by police officers in the Identify mode, the image had too low a quality for the system to work. Also, the research found that the locate mode of the FRT system couldn’t correctly identify a person of interest for 76% of the time.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Businesses use CCTV for monitoring and security purposes, and most businesses are aware of the privacy and legal compliance aspects (GDPR) of using the system and how /where the images are managed and stored.

As a society, we are also used to being under surveillance by CCTV systems, which can have real value in helping to deter criminal activity, locate and catch perpetrators, and provide evidence for arrests and trials. It is also relatively common for CCTV systems to fail to provide good quality images and / or to be ineffective at clearly identifying persons and events.

With the much more advanced facial recognition technology used by police e.g. at public events, there does appear to be some evidence that it has not yet achieved the effectiveness that was hoped for, may not have justified the costs, and that concerns about public privacy may be valid to the point that the ICO deems it necessary to launch a formal and ongoing investigation.

Hard of Hearing? Skype Offers Live Captions And Subtitles

On 3rd December, Skype announced that it was celebrating United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities by launching its new call captioning with live captions and subtitles feature.

Inclusivity & Accessibility

Skype says that this latest feature, which uses AI-driven captions, is part of its on-going work to make Skype more inclusive and make Skype calls more accessible to all.

How Does It Work?

The new live captions and subtitles feature works on a call-by-call basis through the in-call screen or can be set to activate by default under Settings > Calling > Call Subtitles > then toggle ‘Show Subtitles’ for all voice and video calls.

The feature works on the latest version of Skype for one-on-one calls with friends or co-workers, or to any phone number, as well as in group calls with a work team or friend group.

Currently, the captions and subtitles auto-scroll in your call, but Skype says that it will soon enable additional viewing options, including the ability to scroll through them in their own side window.

Skype says that the captions and subtitles will be optimised to be fast, continuous, and contextually updated as people speak.

Translations Into 20 Languages

Skype also says that in the coming weeks, it will be augmenting the live captions and subtitles feature further by releasing translations that support over 20 languages and dialects.

Microsoft – Introducing Captions and Subtitles For PowerPoint Presentations

Microsoft, which owns Skype, announced that as part of the same celebration of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it is introducing AI-powered captions and subtitles for presentations in real-time for PowerPoint.

Many Languages Too

Microsoft also announced at the launch, that the live captions and subtitles for PowerPoint will support 12 spoken languages and display on-screen captions or subtitles in one of 60+ languages.

Features

Live captions and subtitles in PowerPoint will use AI, automatically adaptive speech recognition based on the presented content for more accurate recognition of names and specialised terminology, and the ability for presenters to easily customise the size, position, and appearance of subtitles.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

AI is the technology at the heart of these new features, and Microsoft is finding ways to utilise the technology to create many different value-adding and differentiating benefits to its services.

Accessibility is an important consideration and point of compliance for businesses, and these new AI-powered features can help businesses to communicate and present information in a more inclusive, accessible and engaging way.

Microsoft has emphasised that the new captions and subtitles feature joins many other accessibility features that it has introduced to Office 365, such as automatic suggestions for alt-text in Word and PowerPoint, expanded availability of automatic closed captions and searchable transcripts for videos in Microsoft Stream, plus enhancements to the Office 365 Accessibility Checker.

New Hashtags Feature For Google Maps

Google has begun the global rollout of its new ‘hashtags’ feature in Google Maps, which allows users to add hashtags to the end of the reviews they write, thereby helping others to find local attractions and businesses.

How It Works

When using Google Maps e.g. to find places to eat or local attractions, if a Google Maps user then chooses to write a review afterwards, they are given the opportunity to add up to five hashtags to the end of the review (to keep the text easy to read).  The hashtags need to be specific to be useful e.g. #love or #food, but things like #familyfriendly, #wheelchairaccessible, #sunsetviews, or #vegetarian.

The idea is that these hashtags will make it easier for other users to discover places that have been recommended by others for specific reasons, thereby increasing the value of Google Maps to users.

More Competitive

From Google’s point of view, this (and other new features) could help Google Maps to compete against other platforms in the world of social recommendations as well as other popular local search offerings such as Yelp.

Just Local Guides For Now

So far in the rollout of Hashtags, it’s only available on Android for members of Maps’ Local Guides program.  This is the program where members receive rewards for sharing their opinions and photos for the places they visit and review.

Added to ‘Follow’ & ‘My Business’ Updates

The new hashtag feature comes right after the new ‘Follow’ feature that was introduced to Maps last month.  ‘Follow’ allows users to click a follow button for locations which enables them to receive updates about any events and offers e.g. from favourite stores and restaurants, and information about new places that are due to open soon.

The update to ‘My Business’ in Google was to enable businesses to update their Maps profile with new content, use the app to view and respond to reviews and messages, and to enable businesses to add all the content that will work with ‘Follow’.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Local search and platforms offering users value-adding information and recommendations about the places they plan to visit are now competitive areas, and Google wants to stay ahead of the game.  Adding social elements such as hashtags, ‘Follow’, and direct messaging all contribute to the vital engagement factor for Google and can be monetised.

Other updates to Google Maps that could add even more value to Google’s platform from a consumer’s point of view are a useful commuter tab that shows a user information about their commute e.g. real-time public transit information and status alerts about anything that could cause delays, and allowing users to control their music from inside Google Maps. Google is clearly well placed and is fighting hard to make its platform more attractive than competing offerings.  It will be a matter of opinion, however, how user-friendly all these bundled features turn out to be.

Free VPN Tools May Be Linked To China

A new investigation by Metric Labs of the top free VPN (Virtual Private Network) apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play has revealed that more than half are run by companies with Chinese ownership.

What’s A VPN?

A ‘Virtual Private Network’ (VPN) is generally used to keep internet activity private, evade censorship / maintain net neutrality and use public Wi-Fi securely e.g. avoid threats such as man-in-the-middle attacks.  A VPN achieves this by diverting a user’s traffic via a remote server in order to replace their IP address while offering the user a secure, encrypted connection (like a secure tunnel) between the user’s device and the VPN service.

Popular Free Apps

VPNs (Forbes, 2017) are the most searched-for apps in the world, partly because people have become much more concerned with privacy and they have become more afraid of government surveillance of their digital activities.  For example, the UK government’s Investigatory Powers Bill), which was passed into 29th November 2016 as the Investigatory Powers Act (“Snooper’s charter”) means that a large list of UK agencies, including various police forces and government departments, can ask for any UK citizen’s stored browsing history (details of every website and instant messaging apps that you have visited or used in the past 12 months).

China Links To Free VPNs – Security & Privacy Concerns

Bearing in mind that the main reason for getting a VPN is to preserve your privacy and security, the problem with the results of the Metric Labs survey is that they show that over half of the top free VPN apps that people can find e.g. in the App Store and Play Store for UK and US, have Chinese ownership or are based in China.

The problem with being linked to (or based in) China, according to the report about the Metric Labs (top10vpn) survey, is that China tightly controls access to the Internet from within the country, has clamped down on VPN services, and many of the free VPN services with links to China offer little or no privacy protection and no user support.

How Bad Are They?

The investigation revealed that 17 of the 30 top free VPN apps available from simple online searches have links to China and 86% of those apps have security issues.  It was also discovered that 64% of apps have no dedicated website, and 86% of apps have unacceptable privacy policies with many being presented in an amateur fashion e.g. posted on a Free WordPress sites with ads.  Some of the privacy policies either give no information about the sharing of information with third parties, have no privacy policy at all, use a stock privacy policy not related to VPNs, or simply state that information will be shared with China.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When you bear in mind that the reason for downloading a VPN app is to preserve privacy, the results of this investigation indicate that simply trusting one of the free VPN apps available online, and without pausing to look at its privacy information or look too much into it could be a mistake.  If your privacy is valuable to you (and you’ve not already been provided with a trusted VPN), it may be worth seeking out a trusted paid-for service. There are many lists available online from Tech magazines that offer useful comparisons and information to help you choose a VPN that will give you the right levels of performance and security.

MFA Lockout For Microsoft & Azure Users Causes Business Disruption

The latest multi-factor authentication (MFA) issue left users of Azure and Microsoft Office 365 unable to login to their accounts on Monday 21st, causing widespread disruption to businesses in Europe, Asia, and some parts of the US.

What Happened?

According to reports by Azure, the root cause was a European-based database, reaching operation threshold with requests from MFA servers.  This led to latency and timeouts, and an attempt to re-route traffic through North America caused the extra traffic to block servers.

Finally Rectified

After lasting from 4.39 am to the evening in the UK, the problem was finally rectified.  According to Microsoft reports, services could be resumed after engineers removed the link between the backend service and the Azure Identity MFA service, thereby allowing the impacted servers to catch up with the existing authentication requests.

Happened Before

This was certainly not the first time that disruptive outages had occurred with Azure and Microsoft’s service.  For example, a global outage in September this year affected Azure and Office 365 users worldwide after one of Microsoft’s San Antonio-based servers was knocked offline by severe weather.  Also, in October, UK Office 365 users endured a 3-day-long outage and had the frustration of having more login prompts appearing after their user credentials had already been entered.
Price Rise Makes Outages More Annoying
In addition to the obvious costly business disruption, the spree of outages occurring around the time of announcements of new commercial prices i.e. an increase of 10% over previous on-premise pricing (4% increase for employees who are part of a volume discount agreement), the service failures caused even greater annoyance.

MFA

Multi-factor authentication, which works by requiring any two or more verification methods for a login / transaction, such as a randomly generated passcode, a phone call, a smart card (virtual or physical), or a biometric device, is designed to be beneficial to a user and their business because it should provide an extra layer of security for user sign-ins and transactions.  Unfortunately, in the case of this most recent outage, MFA cost users rather than helping them.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For some companies, the recent outages at Microsoft and Azure are likely to bring into focus the dangers of placing huge operational dependency on one environment i.e. Microsoft, and of trusting a single cloud supplier to keep connected and productive during unplanned (and planned) email outages, especially when you have no independent cyber resilience and continuity plan.  In recent months, many businesses will have been counting the productivity costs of sticking to a software-as-a-service monoculture with a company whose service has let them down on several occasions.  Unfortunately, the dominance of big tech companies with their familiar Operating Systems and environments, and the fact that most businesses are committed to them with few possible, practical alternatives to choose from, mean that most businesses may simply have to unhappily endure the outages and weigh them up against the benefits and reliability of the environment generally.

For Microsoft, these outages can be damaging to its reputation and can shake the trust of its prized business users.

Make Skype Calls Through Your Amazon Echo

On Monday, the Microsoft Skype blog announced that Skype calling is now available on Amazon Alexa devices using a simple voice command and that Alexa customers can now call most landlines and mobiles internationally using Skype, as well as benefitting from 200 free minutes of Skype to call 34 countries.

Can Already Make Calls

Many Amazon Echo / Echo Plus and Echo Dot users may already be used to making calls via their Echo. Last year, Alexa-to-Alexa calls from compatible devices were enabled e.g. calling another Echo from your Echo by saying “Call (John’s) Echo”.  Also, Echo Connect combined with a user’s landline or VoIP service has enabled compatible Echo devices to call any number supported by a user’s home phone service provider e.g. contacts by name, specific mobile numbers, and by saying the individual digits of a full phone number.

How To Set Up Skype Calls On Your Alexa Device

Amazon Echo users can set up Skype calling by :

– Opening the Amazon Alexa app (the same one used to set up the Echo in the first place)

– Going to ‘Settings > Communication > Skype’

– Signing-in using the same account used for Skype

How To Make A Call Via Skype

According to the Microsoft Skype blog, once Skype has been set up on the Amazon Echo, (using an example) making a completely hands-free call should be simply a case of saying, “Alexa, call Mum on Skype.”

The new Skype call service via the Echo is being rolled out in the U.S, U.K., Ireland, Canada, India, Australia, and New Zealand.  The addition of the new feature is also being supported by a price drop in the Echo.

Video Calls With Echo Show / Spot Display-Based

The hook up with Skype also means that although speaker-only Echo devices can only make audio Skype calls, an Echo Show or Echo Spot display-based device should be able to make video calls using Skype.

It should also now be possible to make Skype calls via the Echo to other Skype-enabled devices e.g.  PCs, smartphones, or even an Xbox One console. SkypeOut also means that calls can be made to mobile and landline numbers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon is already the market leader (41% market share) of global smart speaker shipments, ahead of Google at 28% (Strategy Analytics data).  There is fierce competition in the huge and growing smart speaker market e.g. one-quarter to one-third of the U.S. population already owns a smart speaker, and the global number of installed smart speakers may more than double to 225 million units in two years (Canalys).  Amazon is trying to make its smart speakers as ubiquitous as possible e.g. at home, at work and in the car, and adding feature like this may make it even more attractive to customers, particularly at the season where sales are likely to be high, and where sales are already being supported by a price drop for Echo devices.  More sales of Amazon Echo devices could also mean that voice shopping on Alexa could potentially generate more $5 billion+ per year in revenue by 2020.

For users of Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker devices, the promise of easy, hands-free Skype calls could be another value-adding feature to tempt them to buy an Amazon smart speaker instead of others such as Sonos, or Google Home.

Firefox Quantum Browser’s ‘Monitor 2.0’ Will Warn You About Security Breaches

Mozilla’s latest update for its Firefox Quantum browser includes the Firefox Monitor 2.0 security tool, which can tell you whether a site you’re visiting has suffered a security breach in the last 12 months and whether your details have been leaked online.

Developed in Partnership with HIBP

Back in June, the Mozilla blog detailed how it was testing the Firefox Monitor tool which was being developed in partnership with HaveIBeenPwned.com (HIBP), a service run by Troy Hunt, described by Mozilla as “one of the most renowned and respected security experts and bloggers in the world”.  At the time of testing, it was announced that Monitor, through its HIBP / Firefox partnership, would be able to check a user’s email address against the HIBP database in a private-by-design way.  Mozilla said that visitors to the Firefox Monitor website would be able to check (by entering an email address) to see if their accounts were included in any known data breaches, with details on sites and other sources of breaches and the types of personal data exposed in each breach. It was also announced that the Firefox site would offer recommendations on what to do in the case of a data breach, and how to help the user to secure their accounts.

Rolled Out

The Monitor 2.0 security tool that’s just been rolled out in the latest Firefox Quantum update can tell you if your details have been leaked online (if you visit monitor.firefox.com), provide a desktop notification /alert when you visit a website that’s been compromised in the last 12 months, and give extra security details such as how many accounts were affected by a breach and what happened in the breach.

You Can Turn Notifications Off

Mozilla has been quick to point out that the Monitor tool has been designed to help but not annoy users and as such, if you’ve already been told about the potential security issues, you can navigate back without being told again and you can disable the notifications altogether with a just few clicks, if you’d prefer not to see them.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Google Chrome dominates the browser market, but there is still a lot of competition among those fighting it out with a less than 10% share of the market – Apple’s Safari, Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer & Edge.  Adding this tool, that’s linked to a renowned security expert, to the Firefox browser could add some real value at a time when the news is full of major security breaches, but most of us may not know how to check whether our details have been stolen, and what to do next.

Businesses always need to be very security-conscious, particularly since the introduction of GDPR, and being able to see notifications about pages that have been breached may be another way that business users can help to protect themselves.

The tips and personal stories of those who have been affected by a data breach highlighted on the Firefox website for Quantum business users may also help raise awareness about online privacy and could help provide prompts and ideas to help keep improving data protection and cyber resilience in businesses.

Blockchain To Stop Counterfeit Disk-Drive Products

Data storage solutions company Seagate Technology (Seagate), and IBM are reported to be working together and using blockchain and advanced cryptographic product identification technology to reduce disk-drive product counterfeiting.

What’s The Problem?

The problem for Seagate and other manufacturers, integrators, and business partners is the problem of counterfeit hard disk drives (HDDs) being made available for sale online.  For example, these are usually sub-standard counterfeit drives, or old drives that have been re-labelled with false claims of higher speed and greater capacity.

The scale of the counterfeiting problem faced by electronics companies is illustrated by International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition figures which show that global trade in counterfeit and pirated electronic products is now worth more than US $1.7 Trillion!

What Is Blockchain and How Can It Help?

Blockchain, the open-source, free technology behind crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.

IBM has considerable blockchain expertise and powered by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric distributed ledger framework, IBM’s Blockchain Platform on the IBM Cloud enables network participants to append and view blockchain data.

The collaboration with IBM means that whenever Seagate manufactures a hard drive, it will update the IBM blockchain platform with product authentication data which will include each Seagate Secure Electronic ID (eID).  This is a kind of electronic fingerprint that can verify the identity of a hard drive at any time during its product life cycle.  Also, Seagate will use cryptographic erasure technology (Certified Erase) to electronically sign the drive using Seagate Secure public key infrastructure (PKI), and this data will also be added to IBM’s blockchain platform.

With all this unique product-identifying data stored in secure and incorruptible blockchain on IBM’s cloud, technology vendors, service providers and end users will (depending on the permission they have) be able to check a disk-drive product’s provenance on the blockchain.

The Results

The hope is, of course, that by being able to provide an indisputable record of events, from manufacturing through to end-of-life for Seagate’s products, this should reduce data loss, cut warranty costs, go some way towards tackling the counterfeiting problem, and improve customer confidence.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is another example of how businesses are only just beginning to realise the potential of blockchain and what it can offer.  Blockchain has so far proven itself to be particularly useful in applications where authentication, provenance, and proof of different aspects of a supply chain are needed.  For example, an IBM-based blockchain ledger has been used to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history, and blockchain has been used to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturers to hospitals in hot climates.  It makes sense, therefore, that blockchain could be an ideal solution in the fight against counterfeiting of electrical and other products and items.

VMware recently joined Microsoft and other companies in offering a blockchain-as-a-service product to companies.

Environmentally Responsible Blockchain

At its conference in Barcelona, VMware (tech subsidiary of Dell Technologies and CO2 emission-reducing evangelist) has announced that it has introduced a beta version of blockchain-as-a-service.

Part of VMware Tools

According to VMware, the new blockchain-as-a-service product will be integrated into existing VMware tools and will provide permissioned blockchain for enterprise consortiums, which will be more secure than public blockchains.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain, the open-source, free technology behind crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.

Why Blockchain-as-a-Service?

The BaaS market is likely to take off in a much bigger way because it offers enterprises the chance to deploy distributed ledgers without the cost or risk of deploying it in-house, and without needing to find in-house developers.

VMware has highlighted a need by financial customers to use a version of blockchain in a commercial environment that is secure and can be audited, and the way in which a blockchain service could be a way for organisations to run distributed ledgers efficiently.

VMware believes that the decentralised trust, enterprise-grade scalability, reliability, security and manageability, with the ability to deploy nodes across multiple cloud environments, (including on-premise) and a single management interface with enterprise monitoring and auditing tools will make its blockchain-as-a-service product attractive to businesses.

Why Environmentally Responsible?

VMware’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has described the computational complexity of blockchain as being an “environmental crisis”, and the company is keen to point out that the virtualisation and server consolidation that VMware offers has reduced hundreds of tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Not The Only One

VMware is certainly not the only company in the race to get a blockchain-as-a-service product out to businesses. Microsoft was one of the first software vendors to offer BaaS on its Azure cloud platform as far back as 2015, and tech commentators have noted that Microsoft and many of the other big tech companies, including Amazon and Oracle, are now looking to make the most of the growing blockchain as a service (BaaS) market.

Real-World Blockchain Examples

The benefits of blockchain technology are already being in enjoyed by many companies, and some of the ways that it is currently being deployed include:

  • Walmart’s pilots where the time it takes to trace a food item from shop to farm was reduced, through the use of blockchain, from 7 days to just 2.2 seconds.
  • A pilot project between car-maker BMW and start-up Circulor with a view to eliminating battery minerals produced using child labour. In that project, blockchain is being used to help provide a way to prove that artisanal miners are not using child labour in their cobalt mining activities.
  • Using the data on a blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
  • Using an IBM-based blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
  • Shipping Company Maersk using a blockchain-based system for tracking consignments that addresses visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
  • Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

VMware is one of many big tech names that now want to make the most of a BaaS market, although VMware’s (currently beta) offering is targeted at enterprises in regulated industries. VMware has plenty of powerful support in this venture in the shape of partnering with Dell Technologies, Deloitte and WWT as well as having the advantage of IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions supporting VMware Blockchain.

Blockchain is growing in popularity as companies are able to see real examples of how it can be used save time and costs, provide fast and secure traceability, visibility and efficiency, and provide a real competitive advantage.

Facial Recognition For Buyers Of Alcohol & Cigarettes

A pilot scheme involving NCR, the US self check-out machine maker for Asda, Tesco and other UK supermarkets, and Yoti’s digital identity app will use an integrated camera linked to facial recognition software to help improve, simplify and speed up age approval at self check-outs.

Speed & Frustration Reduction

The system is intended to tackle problems such as frustration and delays caused when customers wait for approval when buying alcohol at self check-outs, challenges faced by supermarket employees who have to determine a shopper’s age and either accept or deny them a sale of alcohol or cigarettes, and to help the supermarket to stay on the right side of the law.

How Will The System Work?

An AI-equipped camera will be integrated in the vicinity of the checkout and the facial recognition software will use AI to help it estimate the age of shoppers when they are buying age-restricted items. The Yoti app does, however, require a customer to register their ID and face with the company beforehand.

What About Privacy and Data Security?

Wherever facial recognition software is used, there are always concerns about how the processing and storage of those images (that count as personal data under GDPR) is managed in terms of privacy and security. Yoti is reported to have said that its system will not retain any visual information about users after they have made a purchase.

Where and When?

There are no confirmed details as yet about exactly which supermarket(s) will be involved in the pilot, although some media reports appear to indicate that Tesco, Morrisons and Asda could be the most likely candidates for piloting the technology at some point later this year.

Face Scanning Used For Adverts

A face-scanning system, made by Lord Alan Sugar’s company Amscreen, is known to have been used already by Tesco at petrol station tills in order to target advertisements at customers depending on their estimated age.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Anything that reduces customer frustration, as well as speeding-up and simplifying the passage through tills, and leveraging staff resources through saving them from having to constantly go to different tills to approve purchases is likely to be good news for the supermarkets. If this system proves to be effective, accurate and successful, it could have many other opportunities for use in other age-restricted services e.g. venue / event entry, and the purchase of certain dangerous / restricted products, and the gambling industry.

While it may make perfect economic and practical sense for companies to use this kind of system, it could be a double-edged sword with some customers. For example, whereas some customers may see the practical and responsible side of the system, others may consider it an unnecessary intrusion with the potential to impact on their privacy and security.