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Rite Aid used facial recognition cameras in multiple U.S. stores for years, but has since shut them off: Report

pennlive.com — Greg Pickel pennlive.com

July 29--An investigation by international media outlet Reuters found that, for years, Rite Aid used facial recognition cameras and technology in hundreds of its U.S. stores.

The drug store chain, which is headquartered in Camp Hill, has since turned the cameras off, it told Reuters.

"This decision was in part based on a larger industry conversation," Rite Aid told Reuters in a statement.

"Other large technology companies seem to be scaling back or rethinking their efforts around facial recognition given increasing uncertainty around the technology's utility."

Rite Aid would not disclose which specific locations across the country had the technology, which the report says was first deployed back in 2013, but the Reuters story found that the "easily recognizable" cameras were found in multiple Manhatten and Los Angeles area stores. Rite Aid told Reuters that it picked stores based on past theft history and crime data.

"In the hearts of New York and metro Los Angeles, Rite Aid deployed the technology in largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods, according to a Reuters analysis," author Jeffrey Dastin writes. "And for more than a year, the retailer used state-of-the-art facial recognition technology from a company with links to China and its authoritarian government.

"In telephone and email exchanges with Reuters since February, Rite Aid confirmed the existence and breadth of its facial recognition program. The retailer defended the technology's use, saying it had nothing to do with race and was intended to deter theft and protect staff and customers from violence. Reuters found no evidence that Rite Aid's data was sent to China."

You can read the full Reuters report here.

Rite Aid is not the only company that has tried facial recognition software as a means to prevent theft and losses, the report says.

"Facial recognition technology has become highly controversial in the United States as its use has expanded in both the public and private sectors, including by law enforcement and retailers," Dastin writes.

"Civil liberties advocates warn it can lead to harassment of innocent individuals, arbitrary and discriminatory arrests, infringements of privacy rights and chilled personal expression."

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