Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys capturing shoppers’ faces in stores to prevent theft


Consumer group warns Kmart and Bunnings are among large retailers capturing your ‘faceprint’ when you shop: ‘It’s inappropriate and unnecessary’

  • Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys are using facial recognition technologies 
  • Customers’ faces are being analysed in attempts to crack down on thefts
  • Choice spokesperson Kate Bower said it was ‘inappropriate and unnecessary’

Unsuspecting shoppers are having their faces captured by three major Australian retailers in an attempt to crack down on theft, an investigation has found.

Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys are using facial recognition technology to identify customers, including children, who enter select stores, and create a ‘faceprint’ of them, consumer group Choice found.

The investigation looked into 25 Aussie retailers and found the three were analysing footage to capture shoppers’ unique facial features – without most customers knowing.

Choice consumer data advocate Kate Bower blasted the system as ‘a completely inappropriate and unnecessary use of the technology’.

Unsuspecting shoppers are having their faces captured by three major Australian retailers in an attempt to crack down on theft, an investigation has found (pictured, shopper outside a Bunnings in Alexandria, Sydney)

Unsuspecting shoppers are having their faces captured by three major Australian retailers in an attempt to crack down on theft, an investigation has found (pictured, shopper outside a Bunnings in Alexandria, Sydney)

Kmart has signs at the front of stores which inform customers that facial recognition technology is used

Kmart has signs at the front of stores which inform customers that facial recognition technology is used

‘Using facial recognition technology in this way is similar to Kmart, Bunnings or The Good Guys collecting your fingerprints or DNA every time you shop,’ she said.

‘Businesses using invasive technologies to capture their customers’ sensitive biometric information is unethical and is a sure way to erode consumer trust.’ 

In a survey of 1,034 Australian households, Choice found that 76 per cent weren’t aware their faces were being used in this way.

Ms Bower said that both Kmart and Bunnings have signs at the front of stores which inform customers of the use of the technology.

‘However, discreet signage and online privacy policies are not nearly enough to adequately inform shoppers that this controversial technology is in use,’ she said.

‘The technology is capturing highly personal data from customers, including infants and children.’

The consumer group has referred the retailers to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner over potential breaches of the Privacy Act. 

Bunnings’ chief operating officer Simon McDowell said the measures were in place solely to prevent theft and threatening situations, and were in line with the Privacy Act.

‘At selected stores our CCTV systems utilise facial recognition technology, which is used to help identify persons of interest who have previously been involved in incidents of concern in our stores,’ he said.

A survey found most shoppers didn't know their facial features were being used in this way

A survey found most shoppers didn’t know their facial features were being used in this way

‘This technology is an important measure that helps us to maintain a safe and secure environment for our team and customers 

‘We let customers know about our use of CCTV and facial recognition technology through signage at our store entrances and also in our privacy policy, which is available on our website.’

A Kmart spokesperson said: ‘We are trialling facial recognition in a small number of stores for the limited purposes of loss prevention, such as reducing refund fraud, and safety’.

The Good Guys’ privacy policy states: ‘Our cameras may use facial and feature recognition technology to capture an image of an individual’s face, features and clothing and to track an individual through the store. 

‘Such images may be retained and used by us to identify an individual on future visits to our stores. Such surveillance is strictly for the purposes of security and theft prevention and managing/improving customer experience at our stores.’

Bunnings' chief operating officer Simon McDowell said the measures were in place to prevent theft

Bunnings’ chief operating officer Simon McDowell said the measures were in place to prevent theft

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