A large consumer group contacted three of Australia’s largest retail chains to the privacy regulator, saying they were using “unreasonably intrusive” technology to identify customers and recommending enforcement measures.

CHOICE, in a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), released on Monday, cites the use of technology in the appliance chain of JB Hi-Fi Ltd The Good Guys, as well as the Bunnings hardware chain and the Australian division of the big-box trader Retail 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. Earlier, retailers told local media that they had used the technology for security purposes.

CHOICE routinely contributes to government inquiries related to consumer issues, and its website says it has been a tool for many regulatory changes, such as bans on risky financial products.

In the complaint, CHOICE policy adviser Amy Pereira said face recognition technology posed a “significant risk to people”, including “intrusion into confidentiality, misidentification, discrimination, profiling and exclusion, and vulnerability to cybercrime through data breaches and identity theft. “

“CHOICE calls on you, as Commissioner, to further investigate this issue and consider implementing measures,” Pereira said.

Any investigation would be the largest in Australia for technology, although the OAIC has addressed the issue before.

In 2021, he ordered the Australian chain 7-Eleven to destroy “fingerprints” collected in 700 convenience stores, after organizing research in stores on the issue. He also ordered US software developer Clearview AI, which collects images from social media websites to create profiles of individuals, destroy data and stop the practice in Australia.

The three chains in CHOICE’s complaint operate about 800 stores, with sales of A $ 25 billion (approximately RUR 1,335,930) in sales last year.

The user group said the three companies had collected personal and sensitive information without consent and without clearly disclosing policy practices.

Some stores have signs warning shoppers about the technology, but “customer silence cannot be accepted as consent,” and many did not have an alternative place to make their purchases, CHOICE said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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