[image-1] A swimwear store with locations throughout the Lowcountry has taken a unique approach in trying to bust those granting themselves five-finger discounts: Instagram exposure.

For at least a year, Las Olas has posted still shots from its in-store surveillance cameras onto its Instagram in an attempt to identify suspected shoplifters.

The most recent photos do not appear on the store’s Instagram account as regular posts — the photos that are permanently shown on an account. Rather, they appear on the app’s ephemeral Stories, which debuted last May as a rival to Snapchat and allow users to post pictures that disappear after 24 hours.

In a series of Stories last month, the store uploaded shots of a blonde woman with the captions “REWARD,” “Identify this thief,” and “Anonymous DM.”  [image-5] After asking its followers whether they had identified the woman with the help of a poll, the store published a photo from Google Images of a woman who they allege to be the same as the person in the store’s CCTV footage.

“Case Closed,” the store wrote on its final Instagram Story on the suspected shoplifter. “You’d think a lawyer would know better than to steal.”

[image-4]The swimwear shop has locations on King Street, in Mt. Pleasant, and in Kiawah Island.

Store owner Daniel James did not return our requests for comment, but Meredith DeBar, who has worked at the stores since 2014, according to her LinkedIn profile, and currently manages the different locations, did.

In a phone interview with CP, DeBar says the practice of calling people out on social media originated with the store’s owner and has been in use since she started.

“He does a lot of the posts,” she said. “As long as I’ve worked here, it’s always been a thing.”

DeBar did not say if the strategy has resolved any incidents.

Trey Jameson, an intellectual property lawyer at
Jameson Law, says that the store is likely within
its right to use its own camera footage, especially if
its suspicions of shoplifting are correct.

“With the exception of something being newsworthy or of interest to the public, the store owner could be found liable for misappropriation of image and likeness by using the image,” Jameson said in a phone interview with CP. “If there actually is shoplifting there, the use of the image could fall under the exception of something that’s newsworthy.”

The store might find itself in the middle of a defamation suit if their suspicions are wrong. But the store’s use of photos off Google Images is an even bigger issue, according to Jameson.

“If they’re going online, even to Facebook, the use of someone else’s picture could be copyright infringement,” Jameson said. “There are fair use defenses, but at the end of the day, you generally can’t take someone else’s photograph or image without their permission.”

“Store owners should determine if the negatives outweigh the benefits,” Jameson said. “Public shaming might not be the best way to prevent shoplifting.”