Big Brother Watch Criticises Westquay’s Customer Surveillance Trial

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CCTV cameras around Southampton’s Westquay shopping centre will be used in a trial to track the movements of its visitors. However, Hammerson, the company that owns Westquay, claims that this data will be anonymised and facial recognition will not accompany this. 

Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, a campaign group for protecting privacy and civil liberties, has responded to Westquay’s trial by stating that:

“Many shoppers will be shocked to know that surveillance cameras could be tracking them and their families around the shopping centre.
If Westquay wants to give customers ‘what they really want’, they should give them the information and choice about this sort of tracking.
There are easier ways to find out what kind of shopping experience customers want without compromising their privacy and dignity, and covering the shopping centre with AI surveillance.”

The American company involved in this trial, Deep North, details on its website that its artificial intelligence technologies monitor customers’ gender, age and emotions. These demographics are correlated with the time of day and footfall in particular shops . Alongside this, Hammerson has also rolled out chatbots and online shopping stations enabling customers to either click and collect or deliver. These additions aim to improve the experience of customers amidst challenging retail conditions.

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Politics Editor 2019/20 Studying Politics & International Relations

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