The supermarket chain Mercadona has started using a facial recognition system to detect “only and exclusively” people with a final sentence and precautionary measure of restraining order to establishments. That is, individuals convicted of theft and robbery.

The technology used has been supplied by the Israeli company AnyVision, specialized in facial recognition, security and surveillance, and already in operation in forty stores in Valencia, Zaragoza or Mallorca.

The objective, they assure, is to comply with orders to stay away from the establishment or any of its workers

The objective, they say from the Valencian company, is to comply with the firm sentences and precautionary measures in force that contemplate an order to withdraw the establishment or any of its workers. Also, ensure that they comply with data protection legislationAlthough the limits of this type of system, its indiscriminate use and its effectiveness are constantly in question and doubts have not been long in coming.

Detecting convicts in 0.3 seconds

Checkout line of a Mercadona supermarket

The system works in a similar way to others destined for the same thing: it captures faces and compares them with those previously loaded in a database.

This process, they say from Mercadona, will take 0.3 seconds. It is the time that the process of capturing the images lasts, comparing the faces with the database of people with restraining orders, warning the security forces and bodies if there is a positive detection and deletion of the files.

The system captures the faces of customers who access the supermarket and compares them with those of a database to detect people who should not be accessing their establishments by judicial decision

Because, they assure, this system does not save any type of information, the data they handle is deleted after those 0.3 seconds and the intention is “to facilitate the work of the Civil Guard and the National Police.” Nevertheless, The privacy concerns raised by this early detection system are many.

Eternal doubts about facial recognition

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At the beginning, on account of the telematic examinations that were beginning to be carried out in a study center throughout the country, the Spanish Agency for Data Protection published a legal report that revealed the need for reinforced guarantees and the existence of an “essential public interest”.

Weeks later, he returned to alert about these systems and their use by private security companies, again influencing the same thing: “facial recognition techniques for biometric identification purposes involve the treatment of special categories of data for which the Regulation [General de Protección de Datos] it demands reinforced guarantees. “We speak again of an essential public interest that is included in a norm with the rank of law that currently does not exist in the Spanish legal system.

“Facial recognition techniques for biometric identification purposes involve the treatment of special categories of data for which the Regulation [General de Protección de Datos] demands reinforced guarantees “

One of the first questions that arise before this system implemented by the Valencian chain, beyond rigorous compliance or not with the legislation in this regard, is based on the data. When and in what way has Mercadona obtained the photographs that serve to detect people who cannot approach their establishments or workers?.

“They can argue that they were provided in their day as evidence of video surveillance, but it is one thing that you provide them and another thing that you keep them,” explains Borja Adsuara, lawyer and consultant in Law, to Xataka. “On what legal basis do they capture the image of all clients who enter Mercadona with a facial recognition camera? It is a very fat premise”. And he asks himself on Twitter: “How many people are there with a final judgment and a precautionary measure of a restraining order in force (from the establishment of Mercadona or one of its workers) to compensate the investment in this system and the capture of the image of all customers? Is it provided? “

“How many people are there with a final judgment and a precautionary measure of a restraining order in force (from the Mercadona establishment or from one of its workers) to compensate for the investment in this system and the capture of the image of all clients?”

Surveillance camerasSurveillance cameras

Jorge García Herrero, a lawyer specialized in data protection, considers that in Juan Roig’s company “they know what they are doing” and What interests him most, he also affirms to Xataka, is the basis of legitimation because “you need a double legitimation”. In addition, it is also concerned about obtaining the images of convicted persons or persons with precautionary measures: “Who gives it to them. Mercadona can only have access to the court database. And in fact, courts do not have to have my Where does Mercadona get my face from to make the comparison? “

Another question that arises has to do with the existence of versions of the main database for each of the establishments. It may be the case, as lawyer Alfonso Pacheco explains on Twitter, that a person has an order to leave a worker from an establishment and cannot approach him, but others from the chain can. The details provided by Mercadona, for now, are still scarce and we have contacted the company for further details.

Big tech companies like IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have temporarily or definitely put aside the business of facial recognition related to police use

The doubts that arise about the system implemented at Mercadona are joined by the usual controversies and rulings about these systems. Recently, big tech companies like IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have temporarily or permanently put aside the business of facial recognition related to police use. Civil and human rights organizations, as well as organizations that ensure privacy, are not in favor of the use of facial recognition technologies.