Supermarket giant Woolworths is introducing the use of artificial intelligence technology in 250 stores in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. The cameras, placed above the head, will detect when items are not scanned correctly at the self-checkouts. This includes when products are left in baskets or trolleys, products aren’t scanned correctly, or passing a product through as unrelated. Woolworths stated that the footage is not viewed live, and any faces and pin pads are blurred, so the customer’s privacy is protected and cannot be identified. Stores using the technology will also have signage at the front of the store and entrance to the self-checkout area.
Privacy advocate Samantha Floreani argued that the technology is just a cost-saving measure. She said that the normalization of surveillance allows for the use of invasive technologies in everyday life. In response to major Australian retailers using facial recognition, 80% of 16,000 people surveyed by consumer group Choice wanted budget retailer Kmart and hardware chain Bunnings to stop harvesting their personal data. Woolworths stated that they weren’t using facial recognition technology and “don’t plan to.”
On February 16th, the Attorney-General’s department published the final report on its review of the Privacy Act. The report put forward over 100 recommendations to update the Act to protect Australians in an environment where much of our lives are online. Digital Rights Watch said the proposals for reform were a welcome step to protecting the right to privacy. Floreani stated that the current privacy regulations are inadequate and not fit for purpose. She believes that protecting privacy is essential to upholding democracy, reining in corporate power, and fostering online safety in the digital age.
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