Rite Aid has officially been ordered to stop using facial recognition technology throughout its stores.
According to CNN Business, the company recently agreed to a five-year ban from using the aforementioned technology after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) determined that the pharmacy chain wrongly accused customers of crimes. Additionally, the outlet reported that Rite Aid “unfairly targeted people of color” in the process.
A complaint was filed against Rite Aid for using artificial intelligence-based software in hundreds of its stores to identify people that they believed were “deemed likely to engage in shoplifting or other criminal behavior.” It’s said that they would then kick them out or prevent them from entering the store. A a result, a settlement between the FTC and Rite Aid was reached on Tuesday (Jan. 2).
The company’s policy backfired when the technology caused employees to falsely accuse customers as criminals.
Per the report, the FTC claimed that Rite Aid employees publicly accused people of criminal activities in front of friends, family, and even strangers.
In some instances, some customers were “wrongly detained and subjected to searches.”
The legal filing from the FTC featured customer complaints that spanned from 2012 to 2020. CNN reports some individuals were “erroneously accused by employees of wrongdoing” due to the technology, which, “falsely flagged the consumers as matching someone who had previously been identified as a shoplifter or other troublemaker.”
The FTC also alleged that facial recognition software mainly appeared in communities that were largely Black, Latino, and Asian.
“Rite Aid’s reckless use of facial surveillance systems left its customers facing humiliation and other harms, and its order violations put consumers’ sensitive information at risk,” said FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine.
Although Rite Aid says it was “pleased to reach an agreement” with the FTC, they also “fundamentally disagree with the facial recognition allegations in the agency’s complaint.”
The company claims that the technology was merely a pilot program used in a “limited number of stores.”
Rite Aid also says that the test was stopped more than three years before the FTC investigation started.
“The safety of our associates and customers is paramount,” said the company. “As part of the agreement with the FTC, we will continue to enhance and formalize the practices and policies of our comprehensive information security program.”
Moving forward, CNN reports that the proposed order signals that Rite Aid will have to “implement comprehensive safeguards” to keep its customers safe.
The business can also no longer use the technology if it “cannot control potential risks to consumers.”