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Facial recognition at retail stores - we need your help

The CHOICE consumer data team need your help.

We are investigating use of facial recognition in retail stores - Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys say they are using facial recognition in selected locations. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to visit your local Kmart, Bunnings or Good Guys and take a photo of any signage at the entrance of the store or at the service desk that mentions facial recognition . If you notice these signs at other stores, let us know.

Please post photos below or send an email to community@choice.com.au. Thank you!

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Great - now I have to put on my Juggalo face paint to fool the cameras!

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As interesting as it might appear, no need to go in store with Bunnings to find half the answer. From Bunnings Privacy Policy available on line.

And why are we all agreeing to Bunnings doing this?

At Bunnings, there’s a reason we collect data from our customers. We want to ensure you have the best experience possible, every time you shop with us, whether in-store or online.

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I have not seen a sign however in the past two months I’ve noticed a new camera pointing at the entrance at Kirrawee Bunnings NSW

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We aren’t.

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As @kbower suggests, looking for public advice at the store entry should be on our to do list. Some years prior I remember looking for the conditions of entry into stores. It would seem that they are not always too obvious. Assuming the stores comply, a failure to look, locate and read same before entry would IMO say we are in agreement on entry.

It would be an interesting test if there were cameras recording relevant details before one gets to the location of the notices. For Bunnings time to stop at the car park entry and read the signage in full before proceeding? How to make friends!

Personally I blame the Government!
Car parking included it’s far from reasonable or practical to read all at the entry point. However your details are already being recorded. Privacy is only assured in your own home. Alexa agrees! :wink:

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No way, the average person doesn’t have enough privacy, they may as well put a microchip in us all.

What happens if you have cosmetic surgery? Even when we had to check in during Covid. I work for a shop and we had to take personal information for people who didn’t have the app.

People could get robbed or raped or assaulted with all the personal details that were asked.

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Looks like I need to buy a hockey mask…

…not sure if I will continue to be a welcomed customer or one that gets a visit from the establishment.

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The law is that all they have to display is: “this area is under camera surveillance” But even if this notice is not displayed if you are filmed committing an illegal act, it can be used. There is no privacy or confidentiality for a criminal act.

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I am not sure that is the case. There are numerous examples where there is surveillance cameras and no signage… examples are CCTV camera installed by councils, state governments, in many shops (such as Coles and Woolies) or by home owners. Signage if often recommend in some circumstances as and additional deterrent, but not mandatory.

In some states signage is mandatory if the cameras are installed in a workplace to monitor workers, but not in public places for general surveillance or seeing who is present at a particular location, such as those outlined above.

Privacy requirements for businesses/organisations also vary depending on turnover. If turnover is greater than $3m, there are different obligations to those less than $3m.

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A random sample from Bunnings in store experience.

The Stafford store in Brisbane has a notice engraved in traffolyte, (white lettering on red) on one side of the main entrance. Depending on whether one enters from the left or right side of the alcove style entry, one may jot walk past the notice.

The Keperra store has a similar sign to one side of the garden centre entry, and again on one side only of the main alcove entry.

The purpose and reasons for use of facial recognition are not explained. Interesting to observe the reaction of staff if one is wearing a medical face mask, tinted wrap around glasses and a baseball cap. For anyone who has not had Covid and has a daily need to enter a Covid regulated site, EG Aged Care Home ( staff, carers and family) perhaps not so unusual for now?

Nothing on the sign regarding a requirement to remove your mask to enable Bunnings to serve you better. Is it really just a security measure, if so should Bunnings say so?

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Having worked in Kmart for many years, I can tell you why they would be using facial recognition. The store I worked in was frequently visited by professional shoplifters who would unashamedly use their children and whatever tactics they could (including violence) to fleece the store of trolley-loads of goods. If a store had early warning of the arrival of one of these identified (and banned) ‘customers’ it would save them a lot of money.

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Which is a concern for nearly every shareholder and potential customer in that it costs.

The difficulty is in whether it is so necessary to implement facial recognition. Do the majority of us need to surrender our anonymity and some would add privacy to the business?

For broad community issues such as vaccination, the majority agree with the practice and know that a high rate of immunisation is the path to protect all of us. For shop lifting, it is a minority causing the issue. Facial recognition is not protecting us as individuals from becoming shop lifters. It’s not a contagion.

It’s possible many of us are not that concerned about the practice. That we have not been asked as a broad community if we approve of the practice is a concern. It’s been allowed to slip through the system and our governments as permitted under existing legislation (IMO). Perhaps as it’s a matter of free choice to enter a premise or not?

On that there remain significant questions or concerns.

  1. Can a business extend the use of the monitoring and facial recognition beyond their point of entry? It would seem a sickening outcome if in reading the relevant signage and turning away from entry the business has already captured and scanned your image for a possible match.
  2. With the limited choices of businesses many of us have, there may be no other practical option other than to use a business that uses facial recognition of it’s customers. Is it really a matter of free choice?
  3. The detailed T&Cs for at least one business say, “At Bunnings, there’s a reason we collect data from our customers. We want to ensure you have the best experience possible, every time you shop with us, whether in-store or online.” There’s no explanation of how this is achieved through the use of facial recognition. It’s a rather arrogant statement allowing for the use of facial recognition without a clearly defined deliverable that improves my shopping experience. Are we being lied to?
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I may be naïve but I thought it was for security purposes & face recognition of shop lifters
Please let’s not get fear mongering these measures are helping to keep the prices down !
"if your not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about Yvonne

What are the laws regarding use and possible sharing of facial recognition data? Apart from suspected illegal activity- shoplifting, vandalism, what are the stores using it for?
And if wearing a mask does the ‘facial recognition’ still identify accurately?
Can it identify from a person’s height, gait, other dimensions?

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Wow. This gives another reason to always wear a mask when shopping!

The uncontrolled use of facial recognition in Australia alarms me. This is the worst kind of surveillance.

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This is complicated because it tends to be state-based law and hence may differ from state to state.

The core of what you are saying is correct. Your consent is not required. The only requirement is disclosure.

Sure but that’s irrelevant to the 99.9% of customers who are not entering the store for the purposes of committing a criminal act and will not in fact do so. So the 99.9% of customers have their privacy further eroded, without justification.

That’s true but.

Let’s take NSW as the example so referencing the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005.

The purpose of the act is to regulate monitoring of employees but Section 11(b) - relating to camera surveillance - says

signs notifying people that they may be under surveillance in that place are clearly visible at each entrance to that place

You will note that it says “people”, not “employees”, despite defining “employees” in an appropriate way.

So my interpretation is that if an employer wants to surveil its employees then it is obliged also to notify its customers.

Section 11(a) requires that the cameras be overt i.e. the cameras themselves be clearly visible.

Regardless, most employers will want to display appropriate signage - as a deterrent to anyone, whether employee or customer, who may be thinking of doing something dodgy.

The above discussion does not at all address your point about camera surveillance by government in public places.

My understanding is that home owners have to be careful because home owners (owner occupiers) can cause their home to become a workplace i.e. by allowing an employee of an employer to enter the home in order to carry out work.

Honestly, if you are going to put in camera surveillance then just put up a sign.

Covert surveillance is basically always nefarious and dodgy (but not of course illegal when it’s being done by government in accordance with the law).

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Gov 2.0 complicates things as well as the outsourcing of the police function. Prisons are outsourced in USA.

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