Kmart and Bunnings under investigation over ‘creepy and invasive’ cameras

kmartSandwiches and The Good Guys are being investigated over their use of facial recognition cameras in some stores.

Consumer group CHOICE examines the use by retail giants of the controversial technology, which is used by customers as they enter stores.

CHOICE said it analyzed the privacy policies of 25 major retailers and specifically asked them whether they use facial recognition cameras in stores.

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Based on the information received, CHOICE says that Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys appear to be the only three using the technology.

The consumer group went on to say that a survey of 1,034 Australian households found that 76 percent of consumers were unaware that the retailers were capturing their images.

CHOICE said some respondents described the technology as “creepy and invasive” and “unnecessary and dangerous”.

The ‘Conditions of Entry’ sign at Kmart Marrickville in Sydney. Credit: CHOICE

“Most of these privacy policies require you to search online and they are often not easy to find,” said CHOICE consumer data advocate Kate Bower.

“But since we’re talking about personal stores, it’s likely that no one reads a privacy policy before entering a store.”

Kmart and Bunnings both have signs in their stores informing shoppers about the technology. Both further allege that the images – which are viewed by select employees – are designed to keep customers and staff safe (see full statements below).

At Kmart, there is a “Terms of Entry” sign on the front of a store: “It is a condition of entry that any bag, package, box, or container be presented for checking if required by a team member.

“This can happen at the fitting rooms or at the exits of the shops. Proof of purchase must be presented when leaving the store.

“This store has 24-hour CCTV coverage, including facial recognition technology.”

File image of a Kmart store. Credit: PAUL MILLERMONKEY IMAGE

A kmart spokesperson has told 7NEWS.com.au that the cameras are used to prevent alarming incidents, including physical assault and abuse against staff and customers.

“At Kmart, we are testing facial recognition in a small number of stores for the limited purposes of security and loss prevention (such as reducing refund fraud),” the spokesperson said.

“We are committed to keeping personal information private and protected in accordance with privacy laws.

“We are raising awareness of facial recognition among our customers through our signage at participating stores and through our Kmart privacy policy.”

7NEWS.com.au understands that all CCTV footage will be securely stored and managed and will be automatically destroyed after 30 days, with the exception of past offenders which will be stored in a restricted facial recognition database for three months.

It is also believed that the data is only accessible to a small number of Kmart team members.

Bunnings said it uses facial recognition technology in some stores. File image. Credit: Nils BVGetty Images

Sandwiches Chief Operating Officer Simon McDowell said the retail giant is disappointed with the CHOICE investigation.

“We are disappointed with CHOICE’s inaccurate characterization of Bunnings’ use of facial recognition technology in select stores,” he said. 7NEWS.com.au

“This technology is used solely to protect the team and customers and to prevent illegal activity in our stores, which is in accordance with the Privacy Act.

“In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of challenging interactions our team has had to handle in our stores and this technology is an important tool to help us prevent repeated abuse and threatening behavior towards our team and customers.

“There are strict controls around the use of the technology that are only accessible to specially trained teams. This technology is not used for marketing, consumer behavior tracking and images of children are never recorded.

“We’ll let customers know if the technology is in use through signage at our store entrances and also in our privacy policy, which is available from the home page of our website.”

Bunnings says the technology is one of many measures being used to protect staff and customers. File image. Credit: MONKEY

7NEWS.com.au understand that Bunnings only collects facial recognition templates for specific individuals who have previously been banned from a store, or are otherwise involved in a suspected threatening situation to our team and customers, or are involved in suspected criminal activity in stores.

The use of the Bunnings system is restricted to trained and authorized specialists in the field of damage prevention.

All CCTV footage from Bunnings is believed to be securely stored and managed and automatically destroyed after a period of approximately 30 days.

Images of individuals enrolled in the facial recognition system are internally reviewed, reviewed, reviewed and reported in accordance with our minimum standards for using this technology.

7NEWS.com.au understands that they are securely stored and managed and regularly checked to determine if they should be deleted.

Every match detected by the technology is manually checked by a specialized trained team member before action is taken.

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