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While much recent retail technology buzz has focused on the promise and peril of Apple’s iBeacons, another identity tech has matured: facial recognition. It’s now powerful enough to let stores use cameras to link customers’ faces to information stored in databases—but it’s also finding use in industrial and transportation settings, where it can be used to keep people away from sensitive areas. But are we ready for this tech to start linking personal data with our faces without our knowledge?
Legally, there’s nothing stopping American businesses from doing so. A recent BBC article posited the future concern that retail businesses could compare photos taken in-store with databases drawing from data found on the Internet—like databases of social media or Facebook users. But no business wants to be the first on its block to start scanning customer faces and get caught with data the customer didn’t want collected, says Joe Rosenkrantz, CEO of FaceFirst, a Los Angeles-based company that sells facial recognition systems. Instead, FaceFirst’s retail clients mainly use the company’s biometric analytics to track known shoplifters.