Say cheese while you’re buying cheese: Fairway Market has confirmed with ILTUWS that they’re currently using facial recognition technology that has the ability to collect, retain, convert, store and share all their customers’ biometric information.
“This technology is helping our stores reduce retail crime, an industry-wide challenge that has increased dramatically over the last few years,” said Karen O’Shea, a spokeswoman for Wakefern, Fairway’s parent company. “Only trained asset protection associates use the system, which helps us focus attention on repeat shoplifters. We follow all applicable laws, including posting signage in the stores to make shoppers aware of the use of biometric software.”
ILTUWS visited Fairway Market last Sunday and Monday, March 12 and 13, looking for Fairway’s legally required signage about using facial recognition tech, and to speak with employees about the practice.
During both visits, nobody at the grocer, from staff to hired third-party security, were sure whether or not Fairway Market, acquired by Wakefern Food Corporation in 2020, was actually using the technology to collect its patron’s biometric information. One security guard responded with a smile, saying “they could be,” but when we followed up saying we couldn’t find any signage about it, they directed us to speak with customer service to confirm.
“I don’t think we’re using facial recognition,” said a Fairway customer service rep last Sunday, March 12.
This feedback from Fairway staffers appears contradictory to Wakefern’s statement. “A notice re: use of biometrics is posted at the front door entrance of the 74th UWS store,” said O’Shea, but we couldn’t find any such signage during either initial visit.
O’Shea went on to say, “Retail theft and shoplifting has a high rate of repeat offense and drives up grocery costs for all customers. We have found that this technology — used thoughtfully and in combination with other measures we take to reduce theft — is helping prevent more crime in store.”
ILTUWS asked several customers walking out of Fairway if they saw any signage indicating use of this technology. Responses ranged from, “What? Seriously?” to “No, I hope not.”
One patron wondered if facial recognition was being used at the self-checkout kiosks as cameras are right in your face as you check out. However, we didn’t see any signage posted at those locations either.
At roughly 7 a.m. on Tuesday, March 14, ILTUWS returned to Fairway to see the signage now taped to its door.
Wakefern also confirmed facial recognition technology is being used at their Upper East Side location at 240 East 86th Street, between Second and Third avenues, and it was recently revealed in the New York Times that the Fairway in Chelsea is using the technology as well.
One more reason to avoid Fairway, aside from the much higher prices and poorer selection compared to pre-Wakefern days.