Facial recognition technology

Facial recognition technology

Did you know that your face is being scanned when you shop at some large Australian retail chains?

Last week CHOICE magazine reported that Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys are using facial recognition technology to collect biometric data from customers and that most (76%) customers don’t know this is happening.

Biometric technology allows the user to identify an individual by their face, eyes, DNA and/or other physical features. Images of the face can be used, not just to identify a person, but also to make inferences about their mood. It affects our privacy and this personal data can be shared and stored outside Australia.

‘The use of facial recognition by Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys is a completely inappropriate and unnecessary use of the technology,’ said CHOICE consumer data advocate, Kate Bower. ‘Using facial recognition technology in this way is similar to Kmart, Bunnings or The Good Guys collecting your fingerprints or DNA every time you shop. Businesses using invasive technologies to capture their customers’ sensitive biometric information is unethical and is a sure way to erode consumer trust.’

The online Privacy Policies of the three companies confirm that they collect images of users and Bunnings and Kmart refer specifically to their use of facial recognition technology which they say is ‘for loss prevention or store safety purposes’.

According to CHOICE, Kmart and Bunnings placed small signs at the entry to stores using the technology but say that this is not an adequate way of warning consumers about it.

“CHOICE is concerned that Australian businesses are using facial recognition technology on consumers before Australians have had their say on its use in our community. With the government currently undergoing a review of the Privacy Act, now is the perfect time to strengthen measures around the capture and use of consumer data, including biometric data,” says Bower.

CHOICE is referring the retailers to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) to investigate potential breaches of the Privacy Act and calling on the Federal government to implement a modern regulatory framework that protects consumers from harmful and unfair practices.

The Australian Human Rights Commission believes that federal and state governments should implement laws to regulate the use of facial recognition and other biometric technology and that this legislation should be developed in consultation with stakeholders, including members of the community.

Choice media release 

Australian Human Rights Commission: 

Privacy policies for Bunnings Kmart  and The Good Guys 

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