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Did you know some Australian retailers are using facial recognition on you

Did you know major Australian retailers Bunnings, Kmart and The Good Guys are using facial recognition technology on their customers in stores?

If you answered no, you’re not alone.

According to an investigation by Choice, 76 per cent of Australians saying they weren’t aware that facial recognition was being used in these stores.

But the questions being asked are why are they using this technology and what are they doing with the information?

According to Choice, Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys emerged were the only three retailers from 25 leading retailers contacted during the investigation that were capturing the biometric data of their customers.

This has also raised concerns from privacy experts with Choice alleging this practise may be in breach of the Privacy Act.

“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.”

Choice visited some of these stores and found some Kmart and Bunnings stores had signage at the store entrance, but these weren’t exactly positioned prominently and would be likely missed by most visitors to the store.

Choice contacted Bunnings, Kmart and The Good Guys and posed the question: why use facial recognition in your stores?

Bunnings’ response was that facial recognition is one of many measures the company uses to prevent theft and anti-social behaviour.

“At selected stores our CCTV systems utilise facial recognition technology, which is used to help identify persons of interest who have previously been involved in incidents of concern in our stores,” Simon McDowell, Bunnings chief operating officer told Choice.

“We let customers know about our use of CCTV and facial recognition technology through signage at our store entrances and in our privacy policy, which is available on our website.

Signage at the Kmart store in Marrickville, New South Wales. Picture: Choice

“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.”

Choice received no responses from Kmart and The Good Guys about their use of facial recognition technology.

Edward Santow, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, is a former Australian Human Rights Commissioner and he has raised concerns about facial recognition technology being used in our society.

“Even if that technology was perfectly accurate, and it’s not, but even if it were, it also takes us into the realm of mass surveillance,” Santow told Choice.

“And I think there will be great concern in the Australian community about walking down that path.”