Facial recognition is becoming common in everyday life. While the average person may be aware of facial recognition technology such as Apple’s Face ID, which scans a user’s face to unlock their phone, they may not be aware of the many other ways facial scanning technology is being used around the world.
For example, tech company Clearview AI claimed in March that its facial recognition technology, which identifies people using data from social media photos gathered without the users’ permission, was used by American police over 1 million times.
This technology isn’t just used in policing. Several airports have implemented facial recognition for check-in, and in December 2022, a woman claimed that she was barred from entering a Rockettes show in New York after facial recognition identified her as a lawyer “involved for years in personal injury litigation against a restaurant now under the MSG umbrella.”
Now, facial recognition has found its way into another area—gas station security.
In a video with over 894,000 views as of Friday, TikTok user Karmin (@karmifaye) shows a Jacksons gas station in Portland, Oregon. The door prompts her to stand in a specific place and look at the camera before she is allowed to enter. Once she does, the door opens.
“This is at almost every gas station in Portland wtf I’m too small town for this futurama a** sh*t,” she writes in the caption.
@karmifaye This is at almost every gas station in Portland wtf I’m too small town for this futurama ass shit #future ♬ original sound
While this video was posted in April of 2020, it was reposted two days ago to viral success by another TikTok account, where it accumulated an additional 659,000 views.
Across both videos, many users were questioning if such technology was real. The answer, simply put, is yes.
Since 2019, Jacksons has been using facial recognition for door entry in certain locations. Per local NBC affiliate KGW8, “the company installed facial recognition technology…They say it’s to prevent theft and potential danger by controlling who’s allowed in.”
“The sign over the main door shows Blue Line Technology designed the software. Blue Line’s website says the system is synced with door locks and the doors won’t open unless the facial recognition system clears it. Also on the website, the company says people don’t need to pause or even look up for the camera to read their face,” writes author Morgan Romero.
Romero also received a statement from Jacksons about the implementation of the technology, which read, in part, “This particular solution has shown to significantly reduce incidences of crime for other similar retailers. That said-no solution is perfect-and we acknowledge public apprehension.”
Some customers have reacted with not just apprehension, but lawsuits. The reason behind these lawsuits is that Portland enacted an ordinance that “required that all bureaus, offices, and places of public accommodation by any private entity…cease the usage of this technology by January 1 of 2021.”
“The lawsuit, originally filed on December 1 of last year, claims that Jacksons installed facial recognition technology at various of its Portland locations even after the ordinance became effective,” reads an article in Petro Plaza. “By this time, the company had implemented it in three of its stores throughout the area.”
The original complaint can be found here. In it, the plaintiffs allege that facial recognition technology like that used by Jacksons can be prone to racial bias, an idea supported by a considerable amount of research.
“…As the city of Portland has recognized, the technology behind the automated Security System is deeply flawed,” the complaint reads. “It has been proven to wrongly identify people as criminals, and these errors disproportionately affect women and people of color. Thus, customers may find themselves stopped by security or prevented from entering a Jacksons store merely for having the wrong facial features or skin color. What’s more, customers may not even be aware that they are being screened by facial recognition technology as they attempt to enter a store.” The lawsuit is currently ongoing, and it is unclear if Jacksons still uses this technology in their Portland stores.
Back on TikTok, users shared their own thoughts and concerns about the use of facial recognition technology.
“What kinda of dystopian bs is that???” a user asked.
“I know which place that is & I refuse to go,” another added.
That said, some seemed OK with the development.
“Everyone in the comments: ‘yeah no thanks man…’ also everyone in the comments: *unlocks phone with face*,” joked a commenter.
“I have no problem with that since I have nothing to hide,” declared a second.
The Daily Dot reached out to Jacksons via website contact form and Karmin via Instagram direct message.
Update 7:59am CT, July 15, 2023: In an Instagram direct message exchange with the Daily Dot, Karmin reflected on her video.
“I went back not too long after and they were still being used,” she said. “[I] haven’t seen anything like it since. Must’ve been because that was around the time of the Portland riots.”
“Honestly, I don’t have many thoughts about it,” she added. “This world is getting crazy and nothing really surprises me anymore.”
Overall, she said she hoped that people didn’t take the wrong message from her video.
“I hope it doesn’t put fear into anyone,” she explained. “The video wasn’t intended to do so.”