Target faces disturbing lawsuit for allegedly putting shoppers at risk

Target’s surveillance system has landed the company in some hot water, and it’s in the form of a class action lawsuit. Amid Target’s battle against growing theft in its stores, the retailer is being accused of collecting biometric data from its customers through its video surveillance systems without their consent.

Biometric data is personal information that can be used to identify a person’s physical or behavioral characteristics. This can include fingerprints, facial and voice recognition, etc.

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“Target’s stores in Illinois are outfitted with cameras and advanced video surveillance systems that– unbeknownst to customers– surreptitiously collect, possess, or otherwise obtain Biometric Data,” reads the lawsuit. “Target does not notify customers of this fact prior to store entry, nor does it obtain consent prior to collecting its customers’ Biometric Data.”

The lawsuit, which was filed on March 11 by a woman in Illinois, also alleges that Target does not inform customers what it intends to do with the biometric data it collects.

“Target does not have written, publicly available policies identifying their retention schedules or guidelines for permanently destroying any of these biometric identifiers or biometric information,” reads the lawsuit.

It also highlights that the collection of biometric data can pose a threat to security due to the possibility of it being compromised, which can put individuals at risk for identity theft.

“For example, social security numbers, when compromised, can be changed,” reads the lawsuit. “Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, is at heightened risk for identity theft, and is likely to withdraw from biometric-facilitated transactions.”

A customer at the self checkout of a Target store in the Queens borough of New York City on May 16, 2023.

Bloomberg/Getty Images

The plaintiff in the lawsuit alleges that Target has violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, and each violation of the law can result in a plaintiff receiving damages that range $1,000 for negligent violations to $5,000 for intentional or reckless violations, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs and injunctive relief.

Target did not immediately respond to TheStreet’s request for comment.

The lawsuit comes amid Target’s ramped up efforts to curb retail theft in its stores across the nation. The retailer has reportedly recently been piloting the use of new technology in its self-checkout lanes called TruScan, which uses cameras to monitor shoppers “who repeatedly fail to scan their items even after being prompted,” according to a document that was seen by Bloomberg.

Last year, Target announced in September that it was closing nine of its stores across the U.S. in four different states due to retail theft. Target also vowed in the announcement that it will coordinate with lawmakers and industry partners, as well as invest in technology to help tackle shoplifting in its stores.

This is not the first time a major retailer has faced a lawsuit over its surveillance system. In January, Sunglass Hut, which is owned by EssilorLuxottica, faced a lawsuit over misidentifying a man by using a facial recognition system as one of the people  who robbed a Texas Sunglass Hut store location. The company was accused in the lawsuit of collecting customers’ “‘biometric identifiers’ and ‘biometric information’ with its face scanning apps at many of its locations and kiosks.” 

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