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MPs protest Frasers Group in-store facial recognition use

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Around 50 MPs and peers have written to Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group condemning the use of live facial recognition cameras in the group’s stores, which include Sports Direct and House of Fraser.

Frasers also holds significant stakes in several North West etailers including N Brown, Missguided and I Saw It First.

The letter follows revelations in March, by the Daily Mail, that the cameras were being used in at least 27 Frasers Group stores. The cross-party signatories describe the use of cameras as “invasive and discriminatory” and urge Frasers to end their use across the country.

“Live facial recognition [LFR] technology has well-evidenced issues with privacy, inaccuracy, and race and gender discrimination. LFR inverts the vital democratic principle of suspicion preceding surveillance and treats everyone who passes the camera like a potential criminal,” the letter said.

“The technology obtains the facial biometric data – information as sensitive as a fingerprint – of every customer entering the store to check them against your privately created watchlist. This is the equivalent of performing an identity check on every single customer.”

The letter was coordinated and co-signed by the privacy groups Big Brother Watch, Liberty and Privacy International, and big-name signatures include Conservative David Davis, Labour’s John McDonnell and former LibDem leader Tim Farron.

Salford and Eccles Labour MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey, another signatory of the letter, told The Guardian on Sunday: “The use of live facial recognition cameras to target customers is an invasive and abusive practice. For a hugely wealthy and powerful company to be monitoring people in this way is outrageous. The practice must be halted immediately.”

Frasers Group has previously said surveillance is carried out to “ensure the safety of our staff and to help prevent theft”. Prolific North has contacted Frasers for comment.

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