26 September 2023

OAIC to zoom in on Bunnings and Kmart

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The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is investigating retail giants Bunnings and Kmart for allegedly using facial recognition technology on clients without their approval.

Announcing the investigations, the Office said it was looking into the two companies’ personal information handling practices.

“The investigations follow a report from consumer advocacy group CHOICE about the retailers’ use of facial recognition technology,” the OAIC said.

It said it had also commenced preliminary inquiries with Good Guys Discount Warehouses (Australia) following public reports that the company had paused its use of the facial recognition technology.

Last month, Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said that when it came to using technology to collect personal information, retailers needed to consider the technology’s impact on privacy, the community’s expectations, and the need to comply with privacy law.

“The Privacy Act generally requires retailers to only collect sensitive biometric information if it’s reasonably necessary for their functions or activities, and where they have clear consent,” Commissioner Falk said.

“While deterring theft and creating a safe environment are important goals, using high privacy impact technologies in stores carries significant privacy risks,” she said.

“Retailers need to be able to demonstrate that it is a proportionate response to collect the facial templates of all of their customers coming into their stores for this purpose.”

The OAIC said no further comment on the investigations would be made while they were ongoing.

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