Two Australian retail giants are under investigation by the privacy regulator over the way they handle customers’ personal information.

The Australian Privacy Authority is investigating Bunnings and Kmart’s use of facial recognition technology.

Australia’s Office of the Information Commissioner (OAIC) ​​confirmed on Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into the technology, focusing on how retail giants handle customers’ personal information.

The investigations follow a report by consumer advocacy group Choice into retailers’ use of facial recognition technology.

Choice analyzed the privacy policies of 25 major retailers and found that The Good Guys, Kmart and Bunnings were logging their customers’ biometrics.

Facial recognition uses video cameras to analyze images and capture each person’s unique facial characteristics, called facial prints.

But research by Choice found that 76% of Australians were unaware that retailers were doing so, despite a sign at the front of stores.

Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk has also opened preliminary inquiries with Good Guys Discount Warehouses (Australia) after reports that the company had suspended its use of facial recognition technology. .

The OAIC, which is the independent national privacy regulator, said no further comment would be made while the investigation continues.

The Commissioner is empowered to investigate any act or practice which may constitute an invasion of an individual’s privacy or a breach of Australian privacy principles under the Privacy Act 1988 private.

Following the publication of the Choice research, Australians shared their anger, calling the use of advanced cameras and the collection of personal data “frightening” and “disgusting”.

Some said they would stop shopping in stores as a result.

Last month, Privacy Commissioner Ms Falk said it was important for all retail stores to consider the impact on privacy, community expectations and the need to comply with privacy laws when deciding to use technology to collect personal information.

“Privacy law generally requires retailers to collect sensitive biometric information only if reasonably necessary for their functions or activities, and when they have clear consent,” she said.

“While deterring theft and creating a secure environment are important goals, the use of privacy-intensive technologies in stores carries significant privacy risks.

“Retailers must be able to demonstrate that it is a proportionate response to collect face models from all of their customers entering their stores for this purpose.”

In 2021, the OAIC found that 7-Eleven breached customers’ privacy by collecting sensitive biometric information that was “not reasonably necessary for its functions and without adequate notice or consent.”

Read related topics:Bunnings