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Are the French ready to accept intelligent video surveillance in shops?

Confined to the security of goods and people, video could be used for other purposes by associating it, for example, with artificial intelligence, pleads the sector. Who intends to convince the regulator and French people who are still refractory.

For decades, video surveillance has entered the daily life of the French. It has been deployed in the streets of our cities and inside shops or other public places such as stations… With a clear and unique objective: to ensure the safety of goods and people.

Moreover, a recent study* by OpinionWay shows that a very large majority of French people (77%) are in favor of it in general (only 6% are completely against it) and even more than 90% when we evokes security in train stations and airports, car parks or even public transport.

But if video surveillance legally only covers security issues, it could, by combining it with other technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analysis, become a powerful marketing tool for retail chains.

Improve cash flow, identify stock shortages, automate purchases…

This “intelligent” or enhanced video surveillance can indeed offer some interesting functions such as improving the fluidity of checkout, the availability of products on the shelves, the identification of items taken from the shelves for automatic payment, the simplification of weighing or even analysis of the customer journey for marketing purposes. These are often automation functions.

These uses are already a reality in China and even in the United States where seven of the largest distributors already use them.

In France, these uses are still prohibited and little known to the general public, whereas the sector would like to be able to test and deploy them. That’s good, the Cnil (the National Commission for IT and Liberties) has just completed a public consultation on the subject in order to consider expanding the fields of application of video surveillance very strictly regulated by law, even a little too much today. today in view of technological developments.

Still, the degree of acceptance is still low. Still according to the study, these new uses are not widely accepted: only 45% for the analysis of the customer journey or 51% for the automatic collection of products taken from the shelves, but all the same 58% for the availability of products in shelves and 68% to make checkout more fluid. But these figures remain far removed from security issues (more than 80% on average).

Big Brother effect

“There is indeed a very good acceptance for questions of safety or hygiene, but these new uses are poorly accepted because they are little known”, underlines for BFM Business, Franck Charton, general delegate of Perifem who initiated the collective aiming to work on the framework of developments in video surveillance and who is the initiator of this study.

68% of French people feel that they are ill-informed about techniques, 65% about their rights as citizens and 62% about the rights and duties of the store filming.

Clearly, what can reduce “irritants” such as making checkout more fluid with these technologies is well accepted. But when it comes to buying habits, or customer profile analysis, that generates “a Big Brother effect in people. There’s this fear of being tracked and that’s pretty normal, especially when you see this what is happening in China with facial recognition for example. It is the result of a lack of pedagogy, our role is to explain and to be transparent”, explains Franck Charton.

Moreover, the trade and distribution sector does not intend to push the cursor too far. This is precisely highlighted in the contribution made to the CNIL consultation. “We must specify the limits of what we want to do. Facial recognition, for example, we do not ask for it. And if new uses are possible, we will have to be very clear in terms of information and why not publish a charter responsible video surveillance”, explains the manager.

“There is also a real caution in the sector not to go too fast, even with new tools that can be immediately deployed for security purposes,” he explains.

The cautious but impatient sector

And to continue: “we want the establishment of a clear and secure legislative and legal framework because the current law is outdated and plunges the sector into limbo”. The extension of uses will require a modification of the legislation which could be based on the conclusions of the Cnil.

But the sector has in mind the tangible gains from the use of these technologies.

“It depends on the uses, but in the United States for example, intelligent video surveillance for managing out-of-stock items on the shelves can save a few points in turnover. It’s colossal. In reality, these technologies allow a return on investment in less than a year. Everything related to automation allows an interesting return on investment because it allows for example more opening hours of the stores”, explains Franck Charton.

Caution therefore for the sector which does not want to frighten its customers and play the educational card but also a lot of impatience given the benefits it could derive from it…

*: Sample of 1022 people representative of the French population aged 18 and over. The sample was drawn using the quota method. The sample was interviewed by self-administered online questionnaire. The interviews were conducted from January 12 to 13, 2022.

Olivier Chicheportiche Journalist BFM Business

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