British pub using facial recognition to help with customer service

By: CBS News
December 9, 2019

LONDON (CBS) — Facial recognition is a tool being used by law enforcement agencies around the world. But now, bartenders in Britain are starting to use the technology.

To stop people from cutting the line, the Underdog Bar in London has installed facial recognition technology so bartenders can keep a virtual eye on the crowd.

"We're very good at queueing in the UK, but certainly not when we're getting a drink because everyone wants to come and get served first," Sammy Forway, the owner of The Underdog London, said.

John Wyllie, the managing director at DataSparQ, helped develop the technology.

"Based on a first come first serve basis, those who've been waiting first get a number above their head to say you're number one in the queue and those who've waited the least time are at the back of the queue," he said.

Not only is the system trying to stop people from cutting the line, but it also helps identify those who look underage.

Privacy watchdog groups are warning against using this type of artificial intelligence in a place like a bar.

"Our concern is that this is trivializing what is a really quite dangerous surveillance technology," said Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Borhter Watch. "It's not solving a problem that desperately needs to be solved."

The British developers behind the software insist people should nto be worried about privacy.

"There's no hidden cameras, there's no data being stored in any permanent way," Wyllie said.

Right now, the pub is only turning on the system for special events. Under European privacy laws, they must get consent from very customer before using the technology.

The UK software developers said they're in touch with American companies and hope to bring the facial recognition technology to restaurants in the US.

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