Surveillance and Consumer Privacy in Retail Settings

Surveillance and Consumer Privacy in Retail Settings

Why Surveillance in Retail is Necessary

Most retailers in the United States and across the globe use surveillance on their premises. Most people are aware of this and realize that it is necessary for their protection and the protection of the business itself. One of the most significant necessities in having surveillance available to a company is for loss prevention. Protecting the premises and their assets or products is essential to the overall bottom line for any business. As a consumer, there are some reassurances that any video footage from the premises will be held to scrutiny and protect their civil rights and privacy. How businesses accomplish this can be a large part of their security plan.

Shopping centers, small businesses, and extensive consumer malls all use a variety of surveillance equipment. Many surveillance systems have remote viewing so that employees can view the video in real-time. The results of having a well-built surveillance system help stores maintain their profit margins. It can also be a safety measure for crowds, used to speed up service, or study shopping habits. Here are some of the benefits explaining why retail stores need to incorporate surveillance into their security.

  • Manage Retail Locations Remotely – Monitoring from an off-site location is a primary function of many systems. Allowing the owner or designated employees to watch videos in real-time and report theft as it happens. It also provides for the ability to monitor locations after hours.
  • Deter Retail Theft – Retail theft can occur by stealing directly or through identity theft. Keeping a surveillance record puts faces to the purchase. If identity theft or fraudulent charges are made, it is quickly investigated to determine who made the purchase. Many consumers are deterred from theft, just with the knowledge that video surveillance is on-premises. Other times theft can be noted, and an officer or a security guard can confront the situation.
  • Inventory Management – Security features help management gain control over inventory. Merchandising managers can track foot traffic and other data to understand the best inventory ordering and restocking times.
  • Optimization – In retail, your employees are your business. Security systems allow for employees to be monitored for efficiency and help relay and optimize employee behaviors. This type of video will enable managers to note any unsafe conditions or consistent errors on the part of the employee and implement policies for improvement.
  • Stop Internal Theft – Security systems help management monitor for internal theft. When employees steal from businesses, it cuts into the bottom line, but it devalues the relationship between the company and the employee. Doing regular reviews helps employees become aware of the security systems, and that knowledge helps deter theft. These reviews and exchanges of information with employees not only strengthens loyalty but optimizes employee conduct.
  • Discover Best Practices – Conducting a review of surveillance allows management to optimize production and employee conduct. Still, it also gives insight to consumer activities and hot zones in the retail area. General retail best practices and sales policies can create efficiency in production and sales while enhancing the consumer shopping experience.
  • Improve Consumer Experience – Surveillance can help management and other administrators make decisions that can be monitored and studied to see which changes create a better consumer experience. Analyzing the results of the video can verify which changes are working and identify any changes or policies that deteriorate sales. Improvement in specific areas can be measured.

Advantages of Retail Surveillance

There are a variety of advantages to having a quality retail surveillance system installed in any consumer location. The above list indicates a range of benefits for different uses of a well-installed system. Other advantages include the following:

  • Safeguard Against Robberies – Not only does a system notify thieves that their criminal actions will be monitored, but it creates a psychological deterrence to committing crimes on the premises. It protects the retailer against robberies. It also protects consumers against crimes that could be committed directly against them. Muggings at retail locations happen frequently, and other forms of consumer theft. The surveillance system protects the consumer’s safety while on the premises. The more at ease a consumer feels while shopping, it has been shown that they also feel more comfortable taking their time, and it results in higher sales volumes.
  • Minimize Insurance Costs – Providing insurance on a small business or large retail center can be extremely costly. Insurance companies will often give significant discounts to retailers who can demonstrate a top-quality surveillance system. This active data source offers the insurance company a way to recover costs through court actions and verifiable proof of the criminal’s identity. Insurance companies see the surveillance system as a way to curtail theft, internal employee losses, and other significant criminal activity on the premises.

What Information Does Video Footage Contain?

Cameras can aggregate a great deal of information, including personally identifiable information or PII regarding an individual. Video can record a person’s face, license plates, business information or home address, and even writing on the front of a T-shirt. All of these details can provide the business with information about the individual being recorded. Some companies access facial-recognition technologies, or when a theft occurs, transfers the video data to law enforcement who can also use facial recognition to determine the identity of the person on the video.

Everyone can agree to the need for businesses to have surveillance systems for safety, controlling losses, and deterring criminal activity. However, the question that also comes to us is what happens with the data collected? Who has access? How is it stored? For how long? What implications does the collection of PII through video data have on a person’s civil rights? What happens in the case of a data breach? How does the company effectively protect sensitive data and protect the consumers that come and go on their premises?

Holding data and maintaining its privacy can be a complicated situation, as sometimes a loss is discovered at a later time than when the video was taken. How much data should a retailer keep, and what are the penalties that are faced when a video is released or stolen? The benefits of having a surveillance system outweigh the complications faced with data protection. Retailers will have to set policies and guidelines, use specific redaction tools and techniques that will allow the consumer to have their privacy protected while having that data available to study for retail improvements and mitigate the risks of theft or other crimes.

The digitally recorded video also contains background metadata, giving more details about the person or other registered information. It can include GPS locations, time of day, and types of video settings used. Releasing any of this data to the public can put the company at risk for penalties provided by privacy legislation.

There are a variety of privacy legislations that retail establishments are required to follow, or they face severe penalties. Retailers and other businesses regularly work to avoid penalties and provide risk mitigation to data that they store. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is an example of one of many state privacy laws that can impact the way information is aggregated, stored, and used. The General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) is a European set of privacy legislation that impacts the data obtained through surveillance. The 1974 Privacy Act is a federal set of privacy legislations that also affects surveillance data. A good definition of how to define personal data is “any information or opinion, whether true or not, and whether recorded in a material form or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion.”

Removing Personal Data

One of the easiest ways for a retail establishment to protect its sensitive video data and ensure its consumers’ privacy is through robust privacy policies and a quality automated redaction software system. Having a privacy consultant walk through steps and guidelines for appropriate strategies for the data collected from video surveillance can be the key to success. Privacy professionals can demonstrate to the business what types of personal data they receive from their surveillance video. These can range from faces, license plates, and even information written on a piece of paper. Many video systems have amazing capabilities to blow up the most delicate details and make them readable.

Data has a shelf life, a period in which it is useful and a part of processing orders or used for studies that benefit the business flow. Once the threat of loss has come and gone, and there is no reason to review film footage for loss of inventory, there is no reason to keep specific amounts of data at hand. A retail company may have faith in its employees to maintain the digital privacy of their customers, but what data would be available to criminals in the case of a data breach? Setting specific time frames for saving data, redacting or removing data, and destroying information is standard practice.

When the period in the company policy states that information should be redacted, using a quality redaction program helps get the job done quickly and effectively. Intelligent automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can be combined in redaction software to make the workload of redacting video much more relaxed and less time-consuming. Intelligent automation can remove specified data points, i.e., computer or phone screens, facial features, license plates, written information, and more, delete, redact, or blur the information so that it is no longer readable, leaving the remaining video intact. This type of automation can redact thousands of points of data with just a click and a few minutes. Before these technologies were combined to improve redaction, all videos had to be redacted by personal interaction with an employee. To thoroughly redact an hour of video could take several days. This time spent on employee salary can create high redaction costs for any enterprise or retail establishment.

An excellent automated redaction system is thorough and easy to use. It creates overall ease in the handling of privacy risk mitigation. Less money can be spent on employee salaries, while the data removed from the video becomes much more accurate. There is less of an opportunity for human error. A single mistake that causes a data breach or loss of personally identifiable information can result in enormous financial penalties for privacy law violations.

CaseGuard has created the most intelligent, reactive automated redaction system available. The software system complies with privacy legislation worldwide. Whether in the United States, Mexico, or Europe, the software can be a valued money-saving data privacy system that can keep the company’s reputation in good standing with its consumers. The artificial intelligence built into the system also provides many excellent features that can be used to redact other forms of media files. The types of media can include images, pdfs, and other documents. Specific levels of redaction can be set and distributed to employees within a company based on their level of information clearance. This type of redaction process makes it an excellent source for controlling the spread of data when many employees start to work from their homes.

Other features that CaseGuard has incorporated in their system makes it an invaluable asset for many different duties within a corporate setting. It can help increase the reach of the company’s messages through translation, transcription of video and audio, and also through captioning video content. The software system also features its own iPhone application. It allows companies to share social media at public events, company outings, and other social media videos or images by redacting PII right on the phone. This feature allows for live streaming social media events and bringing your consumers into the company’s ideas, personnel, and demonstrations of products. Opening up the social data in this way helps improve consumer relations, trust, and spending. For the bottom line, CaseGuard causes security and business growth in such a way that its use can increase company profits over time.