Asda tills don’t use facial recognition for targeted ads

17 March 2023
What was claimed

Asda’s self-service tills use facial recognition to collect customers’ data for targeted advertising.

Our verdict

This is false. Asda has confirmed the machines do not store any visual data.

A video on Facebook claims that self-service machines at Asda use facial recognition to collect customer data for targeted advertising. 

Asda has confirmed that this claim is false.

The woman in the video, which at the time of publication has around 360,000 views on Facebook and is also on TikTok, says her local Asda shop has recently installed self-service checkouts that show the customer’s face on the screen, which she claims is “pretty much facial recognition”. 

She says: “What they’re basically happening, and this is my viewpoint, you’ve got a picture of your face, your debit card information and everything you’ve bought. Now, this is for as far as I’m concerned, targeted advertising…But I’ve never given anybody permission to take my data in that way. And under GDPR, unless you’ve given permission, they cannot do it. [sic]”

The video’s caption says: “Under GDPR she is right.“

A spokesperson for Asda told Full Fact the machines don’t have the capability to store visual image data and act solely as an anti-theft deterrent, so there is no footage recorded which could be used for targeted ads.

The spokesperson said: “We have no technology in our stores that could take an image, store it, and then compare it to other images to spot when a ‘recognised’ face comes into our store. The cameras use AI to focus on faces—you might see a green box around the face—but again this footage isn’t recorded or stored.”

They added that “traditional CCTV”, which does record footage, is used elsewhere in stores. 

The Asda website says that CCTV recordings are held for 14 to 30 days depending on the site, and that the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) footage used in car parks is held for around 120 days. 

In some cases it may be kept for longer “to support an investigation of a suspected crime or accident or related legal or regulatory action—in which case it may be held for up to 6 years beyond the date of the investigation”.

It also says that Asda has a legal basis to collect this footage based on their “legitimate business interest” to provide a safe space and enable a fair investigation into potential breaches, among other reasons.

False claims about data collection can cause people to feel unnecessarily unsafe going about daily activities and make misinformed decisions about how to live.

Image courtesy of Innes2021

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