Stores’ Use Biometric Face Data Sets Off Privacy Controversy In Japan

A program run between 115 Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores to share biometric customer face data has drawn criticism for offering a wide variety of possible customers' rights abuses.

The shop-lifting prevention system operated by a Nagoya-based software development company, scans and stores customer face data collected by cameras at the 115 different retail locations.  If an individual then steals or makes a ruckus, their security camera image is processed into facial data and uploaded into the system and accessible to all stores in the network under a label such as "shoplifter," or "complainer."

Under Japan’s Personal Information Protection Law a facial image is considered personal information, and though they can be taken for crime prevention purposes, sharing the data may be illegal.

“Even when someone is erroneously registered (as a suspicious person), he or she won’t be given an opportunity to complain about the mistake” lawyer Yoichiro Itakura told The Daily Herald.

In response to an inquiry about their product, a company spokesperson for the Nagoya-based software operation said, “The system has no problems. We just responded to the needs of the stores, which is their need to prevent shoplifting.”


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