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Anyone notice Bunnings, Kmart and The Good Guys using facial recognition in stores?

Consumer champions CHOICE have spotted big retailers doing a very poor job of letting customers know they're running biometric surveillance.

Seamus Byrne
Seamus Byrne
2 min read
Anyone notice Bunnings, Kmart and The Good Guys using facial recognition in stores?

Proving many paranoid conspiracists aren't always wrong, a CHOICE investigation has noticed that major Aussie retailers have been dabbling in the dark arts of facial recognition technology without really letting customers know it's happening.

The consumer advocacy crew (full disclosure: I have contributed to CHOICE in the recent past) decided to do some asking around of 25 major retailers along with analysing their privacy policies and noticed three stood out from the rest when it came to what they have been doing with facial recognition tech in their stores.

"Most of these privacy policies you have to search for online, and they're often not easy to find," says CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate Bower. "But because we're talking about in-person retail shops, it's likely that no one is reading a privacy policy before they go into a store."

In one example from Kmart, CHOICE noticed a 'Conditions of entry' sign tucked away in a corner of the entrance did mention facial recognition. Mentioned in the final three words of the notice, after all the usual fine print about checking bags and general CCTV.

Not something most of us even think about these days. But thankfully, CHOICE noticed.

The research shows we're in desperate need for some real regulation around the use of this kind of technology, especially in the storage of biometric data and the need for clearly informed consent before they use it on us for no particularly important reason in stores.

If they asked to take our fingerprints on each visit, do they really think we'd say yes?

While Kmart and The Good Guys (lol) didn't respond to CHOICE's queries, at least Bunnings offered comments on why it feels this is a legit approach to store security.

"It's really important to us that we do everything we can to discourage poor behaviour in our stores, and we believe this technology is an important measure that helps us to maintain a safe and secure environment for our team and customers," said Simon McDowell, Bunnings COO.

As today has progress and coverage of the CHOICE report has spread through local media, it seems these companies have been peppered with complaints. A good sign that people do not appreciate this surprise and that the lack of consent has certainly troubled a lot of Aussie shoppers.

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Seamus Byrne Twitter

Founder and Head of Content at Byteside.


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