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Bunning’s Surveillance Of Shoppers Causes Outrage

Have you ever felt like you were being watched?

Apparently, if you are a shopper at Bunnings, you most likely will be monitored in some form.  

Shared in an Australian Reddit page, a shopper posted a photo of Bunning’s signage stating it was in front of a just-opened store in Preston, Victoria.

The content of the sign was mostly benign such as no vaping and only support animals allowed in the store. What was a little out of the ordinary was Bunnings noting that they are employing both facial recognition and number plate recognition technology,which both “may be used”.

Why would a hardware store need to resort to using this kind of AI you might be asking yourself?

According to Bunnings chief operating officer Simon McDowell, he shared that it was to keep the staff safe only.

“As we’ve previously explained, this technology is used solely to help keep team and customers safe and prevent unlawful activity in our stores and we have strict controls around its use,” he said.  

Under the pressure of outraged customers, Bunnings caved and announced it would turn off the offending technology for now.

Back in 2022, the consumer advocacy group Choice launched an investigation of 25 major retailers and found The Good Guys, Kmart, and Bunnings were all tracking their customer’s biometric data.

In an effort to further uncover more in-depth information on the utilisation of facial recognition technology, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) then unleashed a probe concentrating on how the retail giants manage customers’ personal information back last year.

McDowell said he was well informed on the OAIC investigations, and Bunnings will make all efforts to cooperate with them.

However, while the sign states facial recognition “may be in use”, news.com.au understands the technology has not been turned back on in Bunnings stores for now for some of the stores due to an OAIC investigation, but number plate recognition technology is a new addition to the signage.

After the signage was confirmed to include number plate recognition technology, customers took to Reddit to debate and voice their concerns. The discourse was mixed with some users not taking issue while others did.

In the thread, one person wrote: “Just a glimpse of Australia’s incoming dystopian police state”.

Another user wrote: “Number plates scanning has been a thing for at least four years and serves a very good purpose for stolen cars.”

For now, Bunnings has not said it will be deactivating the license plate scanning but one Reddit commenter said that this technology is nothing new.

“Other retailers are doing the same damn thing. The difference is, they’re not telling you,” the critic said.

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