Several U.S. banks have started deploying camera software that can analyze customer preferences, monitor workers and spot people sleeping near ATMs, even as they remain wary about possible backlash over increased surveillance, more than a dozen banking and technology sources told Reuters.
Previously unreported trials at City National Bank of Florida (BCI.SN) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) as well as earlier rollouts at banks such as Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) offer a rare view into the potential U.S. financial institutions see in facial recognition and related artificial intelligence systems.
Widespread deployment of such visual AI tools in the heavily regulated banking sector would be a significant step toward their becoming mainstream in corporate America.
Bobby Dominguez, chief information security officer at City National, said smartphones that unlock via a face scan have paved the way.
“We’re already leveraging facial recognition on mobile,” he said. “Why not leverage it in the real world?”
City National will begin facial recognition trials early next year to identify customers at teller machines and employees at branches, aiming to replace clunky and less secure authentication measures at its 31 sites, Dominguez said. Eventually, the software could spot people on government watch lists, he said.
JPMorgan said it is “conducting a small test of video analytic technology with a handful of branches in Ohio.” Wells Fargo said it works to prevent fraud but declined to discuss how.
Civil liberties issues loom large. Critics point to arrests of innocent individuals following faulty facial matches, disproportionate use of the systems to monitor lower-income and non-white communities, and the loss of privacy inherent in ubiquitous surveillance.
Portland, Oregon, as of Jan. 1 banned businesses from using facial recognition “in places of public accommodation,” and drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) shut a nationwide face recognition program last year.
Dominguez and other bank executives said their deployments are sensitive to the issues.
“We’re never going to compromise our clients’ privacy,” Dominguez said. “We’re getting off to an early start on technology already used in other parts of the world and that is rapidly coming to the American banking network.”
Still, the big question among banks, said Fredrik Nilsson, vice president of the Americas at Axis Communications, a top maker of surveillance cameras, is “what will be the potential backlash from the public if we roll this out?”
Walter Connors, chief information officer at Brannen Bank, said the Florida company had discussed but not adopted the technology for its 12 locations. “Anybody walking into a branch expects to be recorded,” Connors said. “But when you’re talking about face recognition, that’s a larger conversation.”
JPMorgan began assessing the potential of computer vision in 2019 by using internally developed software to analyze archived footage from Chase branches in New…