According to the report from Reuters, most of these facial recognition systems were used in what they described as “largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods” in both New York and Los Angeles. How these systems work is that whenever a customer enters the store, it tries to match them against a database of people whom Rite Aid had previously observed as engaging in potential criminal activity.
If there is a match, an alert will be sent to the security agents at the stores who will then review the match for accuracy, and they then have the option of asking that customer to leave. Rite Aid claims to have informed customers of the use of the technology through signage, but Reuters claims that during their investigation, more than a third of the stores they visited with the system deployed did not have these notices.
That being said, Rite Aid has since pulled the plug on the use of facial recognition in its stores around 200 locations. In a statement made to Reuters, “This decision was in part based on a larger industry conversation.” Rite Aid also noted 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.”