The Australian appliances chain The Good Guys is suspending its use of facial recognition technology. The company had been trialing a security system with facial recognition capabilities at a pair of stores in Melbourne, and was one of three Australian retailers that were called out for using the tech in a recent report from the consumer advocacy group Choice.
The Good Guys is pausing its surveillance program in direct response to that report. Choice has already submitted its findings to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), which had agreed to look into the stores for potential privacy violations. The privacy office has agreed to look into the complaint, but has yet to come to any conclusions.
In that regard, The Good Guys’ decision would seem to have been made in an effort to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate with regulators. The store believes that its program was compliant with Australia’s current privacy laws, which do not bar stores from collecting facial images with CCTV cameras. It is nevertheless pulling back from the program as a precautionary measure, and to generate some good will with the broader public.
Bunnings and Kmart, the other two stores listed in Choice’s complaint, have yet to take similar action, and are still using facial recognition. The Good Guys, meanwhile, could presumably reactivate its system once the OAIC clarifies its policies. The regulator has previously forced 7-eleven to delete faceprints collected during customer surveys, and ordered Clearview AI to destroy facial recognition data pulled from social media sites.
For its part, Choice praised The Good Guys for its decision to pull back from the technology. All three stores claimed that facial recognition was being used for safety and fraud prevention, with Bunnings in particular suggesting that it helped protect a team that was forced to deal with an increasing number of unruly and disruptive customers.
June 30, 2022 – by Eric Weiss