With shoplifting on the rise across major UK cities, retailers are increasingly turning to technology to protect their businesses. Data protection laws play a crucial role in enabling retailers to share criminal offence data, including images, to prevent or detect crime.
However, striking a balance between crime prevention and safeguarding individuals’ privacy is vital. In collaboration with retailers, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the data protection regulator has outlined key considerations for businesses seeking to leverage data protection laws to cut down on shoplifting.
How Does Data Protection Stop Shoplifting?
Retailers can share suspect details with law enforcement agencies, such as the police, to prevent, detect, or investigate crime. This targeted sharing is often necessary and proportionate, aligning with data protection principles.
Sharing information with a manager of another store in the shopping centre or with security guards is also permitted under data protection laws. Local collaboration helps retailers pool resources and experiences to prevent reoccurrences of shoplifting incidents.
Sharing images of suspected shoplifters in a staff room should be limited to necessary individuals via secure channels. Publicising such images on social media platforms or in the local area, such as shop windows and lampposts, may be excessive and compromise privacy rights.
Guidelines for Retailers
When local businesses share images, an agreement should be in place to use only secure work devices and activate auto-delete settings. This prevents unauthorised access and ensures images are handled responsibly.
Retailers must share personal information in a proportionate and necessary manner to achieve their purpose. Broadcasting personal details widely, such as on social media or in public spaces, is likely excessive and raises privacy concerns.
Adopting a “data protection by design” approach is crucial for retailers. Considering data protection and privacy issues at the design stage and throughout the system lifecycle ensures responsible handling of sensitive information.
As retailers navigate the challenges posed by increasing shoplifting incidents, collaboration with data protection laws becomes pivotal. Striking a balance between crime prevention and consumer privacy is essential for maintaining trust. By adhering to ICO guidelines, retailers can harness the power of data protection to create a secure shopping environment while respecting individuals’ rights and privacy.