Lowe's And Home Depot Sued For Facial Recognition In Illinois

A fascinating case, here are some brief observations:

A local Illinois paper published Biometrics class actions target Lowe's, Home Depot for anti-shoplifting surveillance systems in which they link to a complaint filed in Illinois against Lowe's that alleges:

Defendants [i.e., Lowe's] surreptitiously attempt to collect the faceprint of every person who appears in front of one of their facial-recognition cameras.

At the very least, Lowe's had done some facial recognition, as this ACLU 2018 report notes. Interestingly, the ACLU cites Lowe's privacy policy but the current 2019 version does not mention facial recognition. However, an archived 2018 version does:

Specifically, we may use specialized cameras to scan the faces of persons entering the facility and create a unique set of data points. These data points are compared — in real time — against data points of faces of shoplifters who have previously agreed in writing that they will no longer be allowed in our stores. The scan data is retained only if we identify a biometric match to our database of known shoplifters. Otherwise, the scan data is immediately deleted. [emphasis added]

The fact that Lowe's has removed this from their privacy policy now most likely implies they have stopped doing facial recognition (or they are being sneaky).

Another lawsuit from the same law firm was filed against Home Depot on the same fundamental grounds.

Illinois has one of the most stringent biometric regulations in the US, with the Biometric Information Privacy Act that requires private entities to obtain consent to collect a person's 'biometric information'.

What is not clear from an initial review is whether there is proof that these companies are using facial recognition in Illinois. The complaints make definitive allegations about the use of facial recognition but I found no specific details or proof in them. These retailers obviously have video surveillance but only a tiny fraction of video surveillance systems overall use facial recognition today.

Best guess is either this law firm is just fishing for something and will come up empty or these retailers were very imprudent to run facial recognition inside of Illinois which has a decade-old law on biometric use.

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