On December 19, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced that it reached a settlement with Rite Aid Corporation and Rite Aid Headquarters Corporation (collectively, “Rite Aid”) to resolve allegations that the companies violated Section 5 of the FTC Act (as well as a prior settlement with the agency) by failing to implement reasonable procedures to prevent harm to consumers while using facial recognition technology.  As part of the settlement, Rite Aid agreed to cease using “Facial Recognition or Analysis Systems” (defined below) for five years and establish a monitoring program to address certain risks if it seeks to use such systems for certain purposes in the future.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Rite Aid “used facial recognition technology in hundreds of its retail pharmacy locations to identify patrons that it had previously deemed likely to engage in shoplifting or other criminal behavior.”  The FTC claimed that the technology sent alerts to Rite Aid’s employees when patrons were matched with entries in the company’s “watchlist database.”  Rite Aid employees allegedly took action against patrons who triggered the matches by, for example, subjecting them to in-person surveillance.  The FTC claimed that Rite Aid failed to consider or address foreseeable harm to patrons by such conduct, including failing to (1) test the technology’s accuracy, (2) enforce image quality standards necessary for the technology to function accurately, (3) take reasonable steps to train employees, and (4) “take steps to assess or address risks that its . . . [the] technology would disproportionately harm consumers because of their race, gender, or other demographic characteristics.”

The proposed consent order places a number of restrictions and obligations on Rite Aid, including with respect to its use of a “Facial Recognition or Analysis System,” which it defines as “an Automated Biometric Security or Surveillance System that analyzes or uses depictions or images, descriptions, recordings, copies, measurements, or geometry of or related to an individual’s face to generate an Output.”  An “Automated Biometric Security or Surveillance System,” in turn, is defined as “any machine-based system, including any computer software, application, or algorithm, that analyzes or uses Biometric Information of, from, or about individual consumers to generate an Output that relates to those consumers, notwithstanding any assistance by a human being in such analysis or use, and that is used in whole or in part for a Security or Surveillance Purpose,” subject to a few exceptions.  

Among other restrictions, the proposed consent order requires that Rite Aid:

  • not deploy or use any Facial Recognition or Analysis System for five years, either in a retail store or an online retail platform;
  • delete all photos and videos of consumers used in a Facial Recognition or Analysis System, including any data, models, or algorithms derived from such information;
  • prior to deploying an Automated Biometric Security or Surveillance System in the future:
  • Establish and maintain a monitoring program, that among things, identifies and addresses risks that “will result, in whole or in part, in physical, financial, or reputational harm to consumers” and “any such harms [that] will disproportionately affect consumers based on race, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, or disability, alone or in combination;
    • Develop mandatory notice and complaint procedures that include providing written notice to consumers whose biometric information will be enrolled in the system;
    • Develop a written retention schedule that, among other things, sets a time frame of deletion for biometric information that is no greater than five years, subject to certain exceptions; and
  • implement a comprehensive information security program that includes safeguards based on the “volume and sensitivity” of the information that is at risk and the likelihood that the risk could result in unauthorized collection or misuse.

The proposed FTC consent order is subject to a 30-day public comment period following publication in the Federal Register.

Rite Aid filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code on October 15, 2023.  Accordingly, the settlement is also subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court overseeing the company’s bankruptcy proceeding. 

This settlement was described by the FTC as the first enforcement action by the agency that addresses alleged discrimination through the use of automated decision-making technologies.

Photo of Yaron Dori Yaron Dori

Yaron Dori has over 25 years of experience advising technology, telecommunications, media, life sciences, and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the firm’s technology, communications and media practices and currently serves on the…

Yaron Dori has over 25 years of experience advising technology, telecommunications, media, life sciences, and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the firm’s technology, communications and media practices and currently serves on the firm’s eight-person Management Committee.

Yaron’s practice advises clients on strategic planning, policy development, transactions, investigations and enforcement, and regulatory compliance.

Early in his career, Yaron advised telecommunications companies and investors on regulatory policy and frameworks that led to the development of broadband networks. When those networks became bidirectional and enabled companies to collect consumer data, he advised those companies on their data privacy and consumer protection obligations. Today, as new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) are being used to enhance the applications and services offered by such companies, he advises them on associated legal and regulatory obligations and risks. It is this varied background – which tracks the evolution of the technology industry – that enables Yaron to provide clients with a holistic, 360-degree view of technology policy, regulation, compliance, and enforcement.

Yaron represents clients before federal regulatory agencies—including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Department of Commerce (DOC)—and the U.S. Congress in connection with a range of issues under the Communications Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and similar statutes. He also represents clients on state regulatory and enforcement matters, including those that pertain to telecommunications, data privacy, and consumer protection regulation. His deep experience in each of these areas enables him to advise clients on a wide range of technology regulations and key business issues in which these areas intersect.

With respect to technology and telecommunications matters, Yaron advises clients on a broad range of business, policy and consumer-facing issues, including:

  • Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things;
  • Broadband deployment and regulation;
  • IP-enabled applications, services and content;
  • Section 230 and digital safety considerations;
  • Equipment and device authorization procedures;
  • The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA);
  • Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) requirements;
  • The Cable Privacy Act
  • Net Neutrality; and
  • Local competition, universal service, and intercarrier compensation.

Yaron also has extensive experience in structuring transactions and securing regulatory approvals at both the federal and state levels for mergers, asset acquisitions and similar transactions involving large and small FCC and state communication licensees.

With respect to privacy and consumer protection matters, Yaron advises clients on a range of business, strategic, policy and compliance issues, including those that pertain to:

  • The FTC Act and related agency guidance and regulations;
  • State privacy laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and California Privacy Rights Act, the Colorado Privacy Act, the Connecticut Data Privacy Act, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act, and the Utah Consumer Privacy Act;
  • The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA);
  • Location-based services that use WiFi, beacons or similar technologies;
  • Digital advertising practices, including native advertising and endorsements and testimonials; and
  • The application of federal and state telemarketing, commercial fax, and other consumer protection laws, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), to voice, text, and video transmissions.

Yaron also has experience advising companies on congressional, FCC, FTC and state attorney general investigations into various consumer protection and communications matters, including those pertaining to social media influencers, digital disclosures, product discontinuance, and advertising claims.

Photo of Andrew Longhi Andrew Longhi

Andrew Longhi is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity and Technology and Communications Regulation Practice Groups.

Andrew advises clients on a broad range of privacy and cybersecurity issues, including compliance obligations, commercial…

Andrew Longhi is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity and Technology and Communications Regulation Practice Groups.

Andrew advises clients on a broad range of privacy and cybersecurity issues, including compliance obligations, commercial transactions involving personal information and cybersecurity risk, and responses to regulatory inquiries.

Andrew is Admitted to the Bar under DC App. R. 46-A (Emergency Examination Waiver); Practice Supervised by DC Bar members.