Australian retail giants targeted by facial recognition technology complaint | Investment News

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A leading consumer group has referred three of Australia’s biggest retail chains to the privacy regulator, saying they used “unreasonably intrusive” facial recognition technology on customers and recommending remedial action. ‘application.

CHOICE, in a complaint to the Australian Information Commissioner’s Office (OAIC) ​​published on Monday, said the use of the technology by JB Hi-Fi Ltd’s home appliance chain, The Good Guys, as well only by the hardware chain Bunnings and the Australian branch of big-box. retailer Kmart – both owned by Wesfarmers Ltd – was unjustified and in breach of privacy law.

OAIC, JB Hi-Fi and Wesfarmers were not available for comment. The retailers have previously told local media that they use the technology for security purposes.

CHOICE regularly contributes to government investigations into consumer issues and its website says it has been instrumental in many regulatory changes such as the banning of risky financial products.

In the complaint, CHOICE policy adviser Amy Pereira said facial recognition technology presents “a significant risk to individuals” including “invasion of privacy, misidentification, discrimination, profiling and exclusion, as well as vulnerability to cybercrime through data breaches and identity theft.”

“CHOICE urges you, as commissioner, to further investigate this matter and consider taking enforcement action,” Pereira said.

Any investigation would be Australia’s largest on the technology, although the OAIC has already looked into the matter.

In 2021, he ordered Australian chain 7-Eleven to destroy “faceprints” collected from 700 convenience stores after setting up in-store investigations into it. He also ordered US software developer Clearview AI, which collects images from social media websites to create profiles of individuals, to destroy data and shut down the practice in Australia.

The three chains in the CHOICE complaint operate around 800 stores, making 25 billion Australian dollars ($17 billion) in sales last year.

The consumer group said the three companies collected personal and sensitive information without consent and without clearly disclosing the practice in a policy.

Some stores have signs warning shoppers of the technology, but “customer silence cannot be taken as consent” and many had no other place to shop, CHOICE said.

($1 = 1.4465 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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