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Wednesday 15 June 2022

Big Brother may be watching when you go shopping in Australia

Are you happy being spied on when you go shopping?

An investigation by consumer rights organisation CHOICE into Australia’s 25 biggest and most trusted retailers has revealed that Big Brother is already watching you.

Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys are among companies using facial recognition technology to identify customers who enter selected stores, CHOICE reports. 

Facial recognition analyses images from video cameras to capture each person’s unique facial features, known as a faceprint.

“The use of facial recognition by Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys is a completely inappropriate and unnecessary use of the technology," says CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate Bower.

"To make matters worse, we found 76% of Australians aren’t aware that retailers are capturing their unique facial features in this way.

“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.”

CHOICE’s nationally representative survey also revealed that over four in five (83%) of customers agreed retailers must properly inform customers about their use of facial recognition technology.

“CHOICE observed that Kmart and Bunnings display small signs at the entrance of stores where the technology is in use. However, discreet signage and online privacy policies are not nearly enough to adequately inform shoppers that this controversial technology is in use. The technology is capturing highly personal data from customers, including infants and children,” 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.

“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," says Bower.

"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.”

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