Australian firm pauses facial recognition trial over privacy concern

28/6/2022 10:20:00 AM

The OAIC has said it is reviewing the complaint.

Technology

The OAIC has said it is reviewing the complaint.

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia's second-biggest appliances chain said on Tuesday it was pausing a trial of facial recognition technology in stores after a consumer group referred it to the privacy regulator for possible enforcement action.

"The Good Guys ... will pause the trial of the upgraded security system with the optional facial recognition technology being conducted in two of its Melbourne stores," a spokesperson for JB Hi-Fi said in an email.The company took confidentiality of personal information seriously and remains confident it had complied with relevant laws, but decided"to pause the trial at this time pending any clarification from the OAIC regarding the use of this technology", it added.

The Good Guys was named in a complaint alongside Bunnings, Australia's biggest home improvement chain, and the domestic version of big box retailer Kmart, both of them owned by Wesfarmers Ltd, with total annual sales of about A$25 billion across 800 stores.

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Use of the technology by The Good Guys, owned by JB Hi-Fi Ltd, was"unreasonably intrusive" and potentially in breach of privacy laws, the group, CHOICE, told the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).Eleven people were arrested, including the woman who police said allegedly put a bicycle lock around her neck and the steering wheel of a vehicle that was blocking all city-bound lanes.A SYDNEY (June 27): Three of Australia's biggest retail chains have been referred to the privacy regulator for recommended enforcement action by a major consumer group which has said they use"unreasonably intrusive" facial recognition technology on customers..

"The Good Guys .. Dozens of members of Blockade Australia, a climate activist group, moved across major roads causing peak-hour traffic chaos for motorists and pedestrians.. Bunnings' chief operating officer Simon McDowell said the technology was used only for security after"an increase in the number of challenging interactions our team have had to handle" and that the company was"disappointed by CHOICE's inaccurate characterisation". will pause the trial of the upgraded security system with the optional facial recognition technology being conducted in two of its Melbourne stores," a spokesperson for JB Hi-Fi said in an email. Banging drums and chanting"Australia's climate destruction ends here", protesters held banners with slogans including"Disrupt Sydney" and"Resist climate inaction". The company took confidentiality of personal information seriously and remains confident it had complied with relevant laws, but decided"to pause the trial at this time pending any clarification from the OAIC regarding the use of this technology", it added.

The Good Guys was named in a complaint alongside Bunnings, Australia's biggest home improvement chain, and the domestic version of big box retailer Kmart, both of them owned by Wesfarmers Ltd, with total annual sales of about A$25 billion across 800 stores. Blockade Australia said the rally was in response to"Australia's continued blocking of climate action". The retailers in the CHOICE complaint operate about 800 stores, booking A$25 billion (US$17 billion) in sales last year. Bunnings was not immediately available for comment about The Good Guys' move. A day earlier, when CHOICE made its complaint, Bunnings said it only used the technology for security after an increase in the number of"challenging interactions" faced by its team and accused CHOICE of an"inaccurate characterisation". Climate change is a contentious issue in Australia which is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis and is the world's top exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. The Good Guys said it also used the technology only to review incidents of theft and ensure the safety and wellbeing of customers and its teams. CHOICE routinely contributes to government inquiries involving consumer issues, and on its website said it was instrumental in many regulatory changes such as an extended ban on risky financial products. Kmart did not respond to email inquiries about the complaint. Climate experts have said global warming is likely to make extreme weather more frequent in Australia, where the last three years have seen devastating bushfires and frequent flooding.

The OAIC has said it is reviewing the complaint. Last year, the regulator ordered the Australian 7-Eleven chain to destroy"faceprints" collected at 700 convenience stores on iPads set up to run customer surveys. CHOICE said the three firms in its complaint collected personal and sensitive information without consent and without clearly disclosing the practice in a policy. It also ordered U.S. software developer Clearview AI, which collects images from social media websites to build profiles of individuals, to destroy data and stop the practice in Australia.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Clarence Fernandez) Article type: free .