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Facial recognition technology: Is anyone smiling for the camera?

Law enforcement has come a long way in determining the true face of a criminal suspect. Sketch artists were once the sole source of depicting unique facial characteristics based on witness accounts. While still a valuable tool, modern technology has created a more efficient and accurate way of identifying potential perpetrators.

To claim that the retail industry is competitive would be an understatement. The Targets, Walmarts and other retailers large and small are engaged in a constant battle for supremacy. Yet, in spite of that quest for dominance over one another, a single issue unifies them and puts them all on a level playing field.


Shoplifters are a bane to retailers. Whether they are alone or in coordinated groups, the revenues lost due to their thefts is reaching the $50 billion-dollar mark. What makes a bad situation worse are repeat offenders who return after serving their time, confident in their anonymity.

That confidence may now be misdirected. While many individual stores and franchises have bulletin boards layered with images of accused shoplifters, facial recognition is creating a new type of “wanted poster.” Growing sophistication and reliability has allowed the technology to become an effective tool for both retailers and law enforcement.

With a more detailed digital record following the first offense, that data can be shared nationwide with not only other locations in a chain, but competitive outlets as well.

As with any technological evolution, concerns over privacy and constitutional rights are par for the course. More businesses using facial recognition and sharing data with law enforcement may help in stopping the billions in lost revenue. However, lacking formal state or federal regulations, private retail companies can make up the rules as they go along.

Significant investments will go into facial recognition technology. However, that may come at the cost of individual rights. Specifically, a suspect presumed innocent until proven guilty.