Major Supermarket cameras to guess age of alcohol buyers


A number of supermarket chains have begun using cameras to estimate each customer’s age before buying alcoholic beverages, outsmarting traditional and manual ways of scanning identification cards before checking out. The cameras in question will speed up the counter queue in an effort to eliminate wait times at self-checkouts when buying alcohol.

Asda is the latest supermarket to announce its trial of the system, while Co-op and Morrisons are also installing it in some of their shops. The same technology is already used in Aldi’s checkout-free stores. It is part of a Home Office test of technologies to assist with selling alcohol. If customers consent, the camera will guess their age, using algorithms and a database of anonymous faces. If the system determines they are under 25, the customer will need to show ID to a member of staff.

“Waiting for age approval at the self-checkout is sometimes frustrating for shoppers,” Robin Tombs, chief executive of Yoti, the company providing the technology, said. “Our age-verification solutions are helping retailers like Asda meet the requirements of regulators worldwide and keep pace with consumer demands for fast and convenient services, while preserving people’s privacy.”

Is it Safe?

But while this is a stellar move towards haste checkouts for supermarkets, many find this rather concerning. In tests of almost 125,000 faces aged six to 60, the algorithm correctly estimated an individual’s age to within 2.2 to 1.5 years among 16 to 20-year-olds. Say if a customer consents, the camera will use facial recognition algorithms to guess their age from a database of anonymous faces. However, if the camera itself estimates that the customer is under 25, they will need to personally show identification to the staff. With that, the camera system will only have one goal for supermarkets; to verify the age of alcohol buyers and ease up the self-checkout process.