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Facial recognition software and shoplifting

| Apr 8, 2019 | Criminal Defense

Virginia retailers have strong motivations to keep shoplifters out of their stores, but the increasing use of facial recognition surveillance systems raises concerns about privacy. Stores that deploy the software collect facial data about everyone coming and going from their properties without their consent. Images of shoplifters or alleged shoplifters can be shared among store locations to alert security departments about the potential criminals. As the law stands now, actual criminal convictions would not need to occur for a private business to label a person a threat permanently.

No rules or standards apply to how businesses collect or use the facial data that they collect. In one case, a store gave a local police department ongoing access to surveillance images so that law enforcement could watch people in the store without any restriction. This situation appears to circumvent legal protections against unwarranted searches and tracking. The Supreme Court of the United States recently affirmed that police need a warrant to follow people via cellphone location data.

Privacy advocates also criticize the absence of regulations that could establish accuracy rates for facial recognition software. Without them, businesses could be using systems that issue false alarms for innocent people. The creators of facial recognition software also have no legal responsibility for how their clients use the technology.

This environment raises the already high stakes for a person accused of a crime. The potential to trigger security systems indefinitely after criminal allegations highlights the importance of having criminal defense assistance. The representation of an attorney could help a person challenge charges. Defense efforts might reduce a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor if an attorney negotiates a favorable plea deal. An attorney might even get a case dismissed if the evidence is unclear or collected illegally.