Feb. 9 (NBD) -- As unmanned stores rise gradually, facial recognition, the key artificial intelligence technology in such cashier-less consumption scenarios, records every footprint of consumers. The digitalization of the entire retail industry chain is the strategic core which makes self-service retail possible.

But the prevailing application of facial recognition also raised security and privacy concerns.

With the World Consumer Rights Day (March. 15) approaching, NBD conducted in-depth interviews and survey with experts, industry insiders, lawyers, unmanned retailers concerning the information security of facial recognition.


Imagine this, you use an app to enter a store, take what you want and walk out. No checkout is required. The unmanned stores are providing customers with such simple walk-out shopping experience.

Cashier-free retail is becoming an investment hot spot. According to incomplete statistics, as of the end of 2017, there were 138 unmanned retailers in China, 57 of which raised a total of over 4.8 billion yuan (759.6 million U.S. dollars).

Self-service convenience stores, shops and shelves have been springing up. The self-service convenience stores like Amazon Go, record every single trace of every customer including the identity, spend calendar, payment history and even how long and how many times one customer stays in a store or is standing in front of a shelf.

Lin Jie, founder and CEO of Jian24, a Chinese version of Amazon Go, said to NBD that the facial recognition technology is used only at the store entrance and collect information of frontal face.

It means that the data collected and used in unmanned stores is not sufficient to be applied in other scenarios. Lin didn't think such data would pose security threats to other facial recognition application scenarios for customers.

But some industry insiders warned that since there wasn't going to be just one type of facial recognition technology in the future and each of them collects different information at different time, the information security shouldn't be ignored.

An employee at an unmanned convenience store pointed out to NBD that the security module used in some self-service shelves is not strong enough to prevent from information theft.

Dong Yizhi, a lawyer with the law firm Yida, told NBD that retailers' use of customer information should be legalized.

Dong noted that the unmanned convenience store is obliged to remind customers of the information collection, at least the first time they come into the store.

Most of industry insiders said to NBD that intellectualization doesn't necessarily bring about information security risks. To protect customer information in the unmanned retail sector depends on effective regulations and standards.

Fortunately, regulations have been formed from both macroscopic and industrial aspects to deal with the security questions related to retailers and customers.

For instance, the unmanned store branch at the China Commerce Association for General Merchandise issued a guideline (consultation paper) for unmanned businesses, requiring operators of unmanned stores to submit security protection documents while reporting to authorities. 

Email: gaohan@nbd.com.cn

Editor: Gao Han