In response to the use of facial recognition technology by two retail giants, Australia’s privacy watchdog has launched an investigation.
A number of Bunnings hardware stores and Kmart department stores collect customers’ fingerprints.
Despite consumer groups calling the technology unethical, invasive, and misused, Choice says it is being used without proper consent or rationale.
Both retailers defended its use as an anti-theft and safety measure.
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According to the Australian Information Commissioner, her office has launched an investigation to determine whether privacy laws were violated.
Angelene Falk says retailers can only collect sensitive biometric information if it is “reasonably necessary” for their operations.
A similar incident occurred last year in which convenience store chain 7-Eleven collected faceprints from customers.
The watchdog said it is also investigating The Good Guys, which has halted facial recognition.
Until Australia has specific laws to regulate its use. The Australian Human Rights Commission has called for a ban on the technology. As a result, it was used by police for Covid isolation checks in Western Australia.
More than 75% of consumers surveyed by choice had no idea Bunnings and Kmart used the technology in “small conditions” of entry notices at the front of the store.
A few statements:
The only images retained are of people banned from stores or those suspected of illegal or threatening conduct therefore the technology is not used for marketing purposes.
- “While deterring theft and creating a safe environment are important goals, using high privacy impact technologies in stores carries significant privacy risks,”
- “Retailers need to be able to demonstrate that it is a proportionate response.”
Chief operating officer Simon McDowell
- “In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of challenging interactions our team have had to handle in our stores and this technology is an important tool in helping us to prevent repeat abuse – and threatening behaviour towards our team and customers”.
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