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OAIC says Kmart, Bunnings facial recognition probe is almost complete

Australia’s privacy watchdog has announced that its investigation into Kmart and Bunning’s use of facial recognition will be completed in the coming months.

user icon Daniel Croft
Wed, 15 Feb 2023
OAIC says Kmart, Bunnings facial recognition probe is almost complete
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The probe was launched after CHOICE in June last year, pointed out that Kmart, Bunnings, and The Good Guys were all using the technology in a way that potentially breached the Privacy Act.

CHOICE found that the three companies were using facial recognition without clearly informing their customers.

The investigation will determine whether or not the use of the technology by the retailers was a valid solution to preventing theft and protecting customers.

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“The use of facial recognition technology is of concern in that it is an impact on privacy, said Australian information and privacy commissioner Angelene Falk during a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.

“In terms of the Privacy Act, it should only be used where it’s reasonably necessary for the entities’ functions and activities. And it’s an issue of proportionality that we’re investigating in these matters.”

All three retailers defended their use of the technology, until The Good Guys backed down after facing criticism by the public and media.

The Good Guys claimed that “The technology was solely used to review incidents of theft, and for the purposes of customer and team member safety and wellbeing”.

It originally said that it had only paused the use of the technology for the sake of the investigation, before later saying that it intends not to reinstate it.

In July, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) opened up formal investigations into Bunnings and Kmart, both of whom dropped the use of facial recognition upon news of the probe.

Falk revealed on Monday that the investigation was progressing quickly and could be “resolved this financial year”.

“We aim to resolve all commissioner-initiated investigations in a timely manner,” she said.

“Our KPI is 80 per cent within 12 months; that has been a challenge for us as the kinds of investigations that we’re now undertaking are more complex.”

Falk estimates that the investigation will be complete in June.

“[Inquiries] have not yet concluded, but they are substantially progressed. Bunnings and Kmart have had an opportunity to provide submissions and have done so, and the process is continuing, but I anticipate that it should be concluded in the coming months.”

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Born in the heart of Western Sydney, Daniel Croft is a passionate journalist with an understanding for and experience writing in the technology space. Having studied at Macquarie University, he joined Momentum Media in 2022, writing across a number of publications including Australian Aviation, Cyber Security Connect and Defence Connect. Outside of writing, Daniel has a keen interest in music, and spends his time playing in bands around Sydney.

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