London supermarket secretly photographs alcohol/cigarette buyers, wants national database

Budgens, a London supermarket chain, secretly records biometric facial photos of people who buy cigarettes and alcohol and compares it to a database of known underage buyers, and they're hoping to link their database with other grocery chains around the country. This means that just bringing a bottle up to the till means that your likeness and details will be added to a nationwide database, recording your movements and purchasing habits.

They'll probably be forced to drop the "secrecy" bit in the end, but that will not bring an end to the practice. Instead, they'll just put a sign up next to the till saying, "By buying alcohol here, you agree that we can violate your privacy and share your information with anyone we feel like." After all, that's what they do with the CCTV signs in London already.

If successful, it could be rolled out across the country to create a database of youngsters who try to buy alcohol.

The system alerts a cashier if it 'recognises' someone who has previously been unable to prove they are 18.

It is believed to be the first time a British retailer has used the technology in this way.

The software takes measurements between key points on the face to make a template of a person's features that is stored as a "token".

Customers' images are monitored and relayed to a control centre to be compared with under-18s already on record.

Future options include other retailers linking the scheme to their shops to create a giant database.


(Thanks, Frank!)