A Reuters investigation has found that the Rite Aid pharmacy chain deployed facial recognition systems to 200 stores across the country over a period of about eight years. It was one of the largest rollouts of such technology in the country’s history.
The systems were deployed to largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods, according to Reuters. For more than one year, the retailer used state-of-the-art facial recognition technology from a company with links to China and its government.
Rite Aid defended its use of the technology saying it has nothing to with race but theft-prevention, but also added that it has since stopped using the software, and that all of the facial recognition cameras in their stores have been turned off.
“This decision was in part based on a larger industry conversation,” the company told Reuters in a statement, adding that “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 said the implementation of the software was “data-driven” and based on stores’ theft histories, local and national crime data and site infrastructure. It also said that the software resulted in less violence and organized crime in the company’s stores.
You can read Reuters’ full report here.
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