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London food bank rolling out face biometrics app for store purchases

A London food bank is expanding its use of face biometrics to facilitate the distribution of food to its customers through local shops.

A trial of the FaceDonate app by Hackney Foodbank in London, England, was launched a year ago, and included nearly 200 users, Reuters reports. Now the app will be made available to all Hackney Foodbank users.

The app is used at participating local grocery stores, where the user can access a wider variety of foodstuffs than the food bank is able to stock. The app prevents the purchase of products like alcohol and tobacco. It also allows fundraising by individuals and businesses, and tracks donation spending.

Pat Fitzsimons, CEO of Hackney Foodbank, says the biometric app provides assurance to charities that the aid goes to eligible recipients, and is less subject to fraud than cash transfers.

“For the food bank, this new system also brings real efficiencies and cost savings,” Fitzsimons told Londonist. “By giving out digital credit we can reduce the man-hours and expense of collecting, sorting, storing and distributing food.”

FaceDonate also reduces the workload for food banks, Hackney Foodbank employees say in a promotional video, which displays the logo of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office among supporters at its conclusion.

The use of biometrics for food aid distribution is criticized by digital rights campaigner Access Now, which tells Reuters the technology represents a data protection risk, and is invasive.

The Phone to Food system operated by Hackney Foodbank and FaceDonate is now set to roll out at all five of the food bank’s distribution centers in the London area.

Article: London food bank rolling out face biometrics app for store purchases

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