Retail technology trials are supposed to take risks. It’s a time not just to find out if a technology will work in the field, but to see the results and customer reactions to it. That all said, a new facial-recognition trial from KFC China and Baidu strikes me as having more potential to alienate customers than to help them.

A good question to ask about any tech trial is, “If this behavior was being done by a human associate rather than software, would it be a good thing?” It’s a critical question to think about with facial recognition.

The trial is not using facial recognition to identify customers and so reduce in-store payment fraud when a thief tries using a stolen payment card. If it were, I would be applauding it. Indeed, that’s a fine way to use facial recognition and to sidestep its less-than-precise accuracy. If a bank associated the actual customer’s image for comparison with the person using the card, it would have a benchmark to compare against.

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