Australia’s second-largest appliances chain has announced that it will stop the trail of facial recognition technology. This announcement comes shortly after a consumer group brought up this issue in front of privacy regulators, possibly for enforcement action.
The consumer group says that the country’s biggest tech giants are using “intrusive” facial recognition on customers and strict enforcement action is needed.
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Consumer group vs Aussie retail giants
It appears that the consumer group is taking on Australia’s major retail giants head-on. The group has filed a formal complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The complaint accuses The Good Guys, hardware chain Bunnings, JB Hi-Fi Ltd’s appliances, and the Australian version of retailer Kmart of unwarranted use of facial recognition technology.
At the moment, OAIC said that it is currently reviewing the complaint. Among the accused, JB Hi-Fi was not available for comment on the issue. Besides, even other parties were not available for comment. In a previous conversation with the media, the retailers had said that they were only using the technology for security purposes.
Can we expect an OAIC investigation?
If at all there is an OAIC investigation, it would be the country’s biggest investigation into facial recognition technology. Over the years, consumer groups have frequently warned of incursions on privacy and the risks of racial profiling. The retailers involved in the CHOICE complaint run around 800 stores, making around A$ 25 billion in sales in 2021.
Amy Pereira, CHOICE policy adviser, said that facial recognition technology has brought on “significant risks to individuals”. These include misidentification, privacy, profiling, discrimination, and vulnerability to cybercrime via identity theft and data breaches.
In the complaint, Periera says that CHOICE has urged the Commissioner to probe into the matter and also consider enforcement action against The Good Guys, Kmart, and Bunnings as they have failed to fulfill their obligations under the Privacy Act.
CHOICE consistently contributes to government inquiries pertaining to consumer issues. Besides, on its website, it claims to have played an instrumental role in bringing about regulatory changes including a ban on risky financial products.
CHOICE has said that the three firms in question have gathered sensitive and personal data without consent and also without mentioning this practice anywhere in their policy. Although a lot of stores have signs that notify shoppers about the technology, that cannot be taken as their consent.
What are your thoughts on this story? Do these retail giants deserve strict action against them? Leave your comments below.
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