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08/13/2021

Are Americans Really Prepared for Facial Recognition?

Piplsay polled 30,000+ adults nationwide to get their opinion and comfort level with latest retail technology
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
Marian Zboraj profile picture
Are Americans Really Prepared for Facial Recognition?
According to Piplsay, 69% of Americans believe stores using face-recognition tech should inform their customers in advance that they are being tracked.

The ongoing pandemic has accelerated the shift towards contactless technology, with  facial recognition becoming the most intriguing. Face-recognition technology is fast entering the retail sphere as both small and big players like Albertsons, as reported by Vox, look towards innovation and efficiency. 

However, as facial recognition is primarily used for fraud and theft prevention, the technology is facing stiff opposition from advocacy groups for being too invasive and discriminatory. On July 14, nonprofit Fight for the Future helped launch a nationwide campaign to document which of the country’s biggest retailers are deploying facial recognition and which ones have committed to not use the technology. 

To find out consumers’ opinions and comfort levels with facial recognition, global consumer research platform Piplsay polled 31,184 adults across the country from Aug. 8-9 to get some insights.

Here is a summary of what was found:

  • 60% of Americans are unaware of the use of face-recognition technology in retail stores.
  • 69% believe stores using facial recognition technology should inform their customers of it.
  • 65% of Americans believe stores using face-recognition tech should provide an “opt-out” option for customers who don't want their data stored

While 42% of Americans support the use of face-recognition technology in retail stores, 38% of respondents do not — with 22% saying it is an invasion of privacy and 16% indicating it can be inaccurate or discriminatory. This was brought up in last year’s Reuters investigation that found Rite Aid Corp. quietly added facial recognition systems to 200 stores across the United States. The news organization found that the retailer deployed the technology in largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods in New York and metro Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Piplsay's survey did acknowledge some advantages to using the technology in retail operations. When respondents were asked what the biggest advantage of facial recognition technology was, Piplsay reported:

  • 38% indicated fraud and theft detection;
  • 16% said faster checkout and less waiting time;
  • 14% believed it can provide a better shopping experience (personalization);
  • 10% indicated better customer service (tailored assistance); and
  • 22% were not sure.

Access Piplsay’s full research report here.

Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates 2,277 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 400 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Kings Food Markets and Haggen banners. Albertsons is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. With more than 2,500 retail pharmacy locations across 17 states, Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid is No. 19  on The PG 100.

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