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Retail Sector Facing Privacy Concerns

Thursday 16 June 2022


Are you allowed to collect that?


The Good Guys,  Kmart and Bunnings have been singled out by choice for  using facial recognition to identify customers a select location.

CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate Bower said in an official statement, “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.”

This comes after the consumer action group did an investigation to what they called Australia’s 25 biggest and most trusted retailers.

Bower continues, “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.”

While some retailers may have included signage, CHOICE suggests that this signage might not have been adequate enough is making the community aware of the use of Facial recognition software.
 
Issues of consent?
“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. 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,” says Bower. 
 
In their assessment of community attitudes to privacy the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner(OAIC) writes in the Community Attitudes to Privacy Report 2020 that, “Our comfort with certain data practices depends on the type of information collected, the purpose behind it, and the level of trust in the organisation involved. Australians appear more comfortable with data practices where the purpose is clearly understood – for example, law enforcement using facial recognition and video surveillance to identify suspects.” 
 
However, this report only mentioned the collection in this kind of biometric data in the law enforcement context.
 
Advice from OAIC website states that the use facial recognition software, and the collection of any other form of biometric data, only be collected under certain circumstances.
 
The guidance states, “An organisation or agency may only scan your biometric information as a way to identify you or as part of an automated biometric verification system, if the law authorises or requires them to collect it or it’s necessary to prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of any individual.”

This is because under the Privacy Act 1988 biometric data is classified as Sensitive Information and this kind of information is protected by a higher level of privacy.
 
Some form nationally representative survey conducted by the consumer action group:

  • More than four in five (83%) agreed retailers must properly inform customers about their use of facial recognition technology.
  • Nearly four in five (78%) had concerns about how their biometric data was being stored.
  • Three in four (75%) were concerned companies would use their data to create customer profiles for the purposes of marketing or profit.
 
 


 
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