Mall of America adds facial recognition surveillance technology to security system

Mall of America (FOX 9)

Mall of America (MOA) announced its security system is now equipped with facial recognition technology that will be used to detect anyone mall staff identify as "a person of interest."

A person of interest (POI) is defined as anyone who is trespassed from Mall of America, might be a threat to the mall's environment, identified to mall staff by law enforcement or anyone who is missing or in danger. 

MOA explained that photos of POIs are uploaded into the facial recognition system and that it is programmed to only look for matches to those photos. MOA officials added that no data is stored if there is no match and the system does not track or keep any information on non-POIs.

An alert is sent to the security team if there is a match, who then start an investigation. MOA officials say this includes a "traditional" check that includes multiple layers of human visual review comparing uploaded photo to the possible POI. 

Vice President of Security at Mall of America Will Bernhjelm said: "Our security team prides itself on keeping everyone who walks through our doors safe so we can provide the best possible guest experience. At 5.6 million square feet, our officers cannot be everywhere at once. Utilizing this cutting-edge technology will allow us to more quickly do what we are already doing: identifying individuals of interest and keeping Mall of America and its guests safe. We take safety very seriously and we are continually evolving our strategies to enhance our security efforts."

The Minneapolis City Council voted in 2021 to ban the city's use of facial recognition technology outside of "narrow exceptions." 

RELATED: Proposed ban on facial recognition technology moves forward in Minneapolis

That decision came after a campaign mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which launched a petition calling for the ban of the practice. Along with concerns over social justice, the ACLU argued the technology is also an invasion of privacy for citizens.

The ACLU's full statement on Mall of America utilizing the technology can be found below:

Other cities that banned the technology include Boston and San Francisco.