- Facial recognition technology is growing faster and faster all over the world.
- Large companies, especially retailers, use facial recognition technology to prevent insecurity at their points of sale.
- In Australia, three brands were reported for exceeding the data they collect from customers through this technology.
Three of Australia’s largest stores by sales volume are under investigation by regulators for the facial recognition systems they use in their sales rooms to identify potential theft.
The investigation began after complaints from consumer groups that these retailers use facial recognition technology that is “disproportionately intrusive” to customer privacy.
The brands reported to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) are the appliance chain The Good Guys (acquired in 2016 by JB Hi-Fi), the hardware retail chain Bunnings and the department store Kmartboth owned by Wesfarmers.
From Bunnings, they said that the technology is used “only for security” after an increase in theft problems. They also claim that the complaints are “inaccurate.”
JB Hi-Fi and Kmart preferred not to speak to the press at the request of Reuters This Monday, June 27.
The OAIC investigation is the largest ever conducted in Australia into facial recognition technology. It began after unrelated consumer groups warned of privacy violations by retailers.
They also say that the companies would be establishing racial profiling of customers.
This is not a minor complaint. The reported stores operate more than 790 physical outlets, with 24 billion Australian dollars of revenue in 2021, about 18 billion US dollars.
Facial recognition technology: advantages and risks
Complainants say facial recognition technology poses a “significant risk to individuals” by invading privacy, fueling misidentification, discrimination, profiling and exclusion.
They also say that facial identification systems being implemented, not just in Australia but around the world, promote vulnerability to cybercrime through data breaches and identity theft.
“We urge the Government to investigate these matters really thoroughly and consider having measures that are complied with in Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys because they do not comply with their legal obligations regarding privacy”, say the complainants.
The complaints were channeled through Choice, an organization that promotes consumer actions against companies and channels them to governments.
The organization has been instrumental in numerous regulatory changes, such as a ban related to the sale of risk financial products.
In 2021, for example, he ordered 7-Eleven to destroy the “face prints” collected at 700 convenience stores on iPads configured to conduct customer surveys.
He also ordered the software developer Clearview AIwhich collects images from social networking websites to create profiles of people, destroy data and stop the practice in Australia.
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