Australian firm suspends facial recognition trials over privacy concerns

Australia’s second-largest appliance chain said on Tuesday it would suspend trials of facial recognition technology in stores after a consumer group referred it to the privacy watchdog for possible enforcement action.

The organisation CHOICE told the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) ‚Äč‚Äčthat the use of the technology by The Guys, owned by JB Hi-Fi Ltd, was “unreasonably intrusive” and could breach privacy laws.

A spokesman for JB Hi-Fi said in an email: “The Guys … will suspend trials of the upgraded security system with optional facials at two of its Melbourne stores. identification technology.”

The company takes the confidentiality of personal information seriously and has confidence in its compliance with relevant laws, but decided to “suspend the trial at this time pending any clarification from the OAIC on the use of this technology,” it added.

The Guys is named in the along with Australia’s largest home improvement chain Bunnings and the domestic version of the big box retailer Kmart, both owned by Wesfarmers Ltd, with combined annual sales of around $25 billion across 800 stores Australian dollar.

Bunnings had no immediate comment on The Guys’ move.

When CHOICE filed the a day earlier, Bunnings said it was only using the technology for security after the number of “challenging interactions” its teams faced increased, and accused CHOICE of “inaccurate descriptions.”

The Guys says it also uses the technology to only review thefts and ensure the safety and well-being of customers and their teams.

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Kmart did not respond to emailed inquiries about the complaint.

The OAIC said it was reviewing the complaint.

Last year, regulators ordered Australia’s 7-Eleven chain to destroy “facial fingerprints” on iPads collected at 700 convenience stores for customer surveys.

It also ordered US software developer Clearview AI, which collects images from social media sites to build personal profiles, destroy the data and stop its practice in Australia.


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