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New Program at Supermarkets Will Use Facial Scanning to Check Age

Welcome to a case study on why facial scanning is a bad idea. Supermarkets in the UK have been experimenting for the past year with technology that estimates the age of shoppers by scanning their faces at checkout. Apparently “Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Co-op have already successfully trialed the technology which allowed anyone that is estimated to be over 25 to buy their alcohol without further checks.”

So the first question that comes to mind is what problem exactly is this technology meant to solve. The inconvenience of someone over 25 getting carded? Or the risk that younger people might use fake IDs? Or to speed up checkout? This program pretty clearly would fail on all three metrics.

The future that’s easy to imagine instead is customers frustrated that AI has judged their age incorrectly and longer queues at supermarkets as equally frustrated employees are forced to deal with the backlash. The entire idea seems illogical and doomed to fail, but perhaps I’m missing something? If I am, please let me know. It’s hard to see why anyone would think this was a good idea. 

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