Biometrics in retail

CCTV in operation in a retail store

Convenience plus security, plus privacy: biometrics in retail

The Biometrics Institute, a leading voice in responsible biometrics implementation, today released recommendations for retailers considering using biometrics in their stores.

“Biometrics offer undeniable convenience and security benefits,” said Isabelle Moeller, Biometrics Institute CEO. “However, it’s crucial to weigh these advantages against potential risks especially around data protection to ensure responsible use.”

To achieve this, the Institute recommends prioritising stakeholder consultation, testing, and policy development. This aligns with the principles outlined in the Three Laws of Biometrics and addresses concerns around:

  • Misidentification: machines, like humans, can make mistakes. The Institute stresses the importance of human oversight and clear policies for handling potential misidentification.
  • Privacy: biometric data is sensitive and requires strong safeguards. The Institute recommends transparency in data collection, storage, and use, alongside alignment with relevant privacy laws and community expectations.

Community buy-in and legal frameworks are essential for building trust

“A key issue is alignment with community expectations and of course privacy and data protection laws” says Brett Feldon, Head of the Institute’s Digital Identity Group “That is why meaningful stakeholder consultation right at the start is essential. What is reasonably expected in one nation or even in one community may not be in another, so it is absolutely not a one- size fits all.”

Engaging in open dialogue about diverse privacy and consent viewpoints, helps pre-empt potential issues and build confidence in responsible biometrics implementation. Industry standards and rigorous testing are crucial to address potential demographic differentials or so-called bias, and ensure reliable performance. This applies to all biometric implementations, not just retail.

“Our Good Practice Framework and Privacy Guidelines offer valuable guidance for retailers navigating the complexities of biometrics,” said Moeller. “We encourage retailers to engage with testing laboratories, the Institute and its diverse community of experts to ensure responsible, ethical and effective use of biometrics.”

To learn more, about responsible biometric implementation in retail, watch the On the Pulse ConversationBeyond the checkout’ for considered insights.


About the Biometrics Institute:

The Biometrics Institute is the independent and impartial international membership organisation for biometric users and other interested parties. It was established in 2001 to promote the responsible, ethical and effective use of biometrics and has offices in London and Sydney.

The member register, which represents a global and diverse multi-stakeholder community now lists over 200 membership organisations from 34 countries. It includes banks, airlines, government agencies, biometric experts, privacy experts, suppliers, academics and 14 Observers representing United Nations agencies, IGOs and European Union institution.

The Biometrics Institute connects the global biometrics community. It shares knowledge with its members and key stakeholders and most importantly, develops good practices and thought leadership for the responsible, ethical and effective use of biometrics.

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