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Choice Given Shonky Award Over Wild Retailer Claims

Choice claim that they are a leading consumer advocacy group in Australia, other people think they are nothing more than a bunch of left-wing advocates who relish at trying to take down big brands and mass retailers.

Last week we gave Choice every opportunity to identify what software retailers were using when they claimed that 25 of Australia’s most-trusted retailers including Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys were “capturing the biometric data of their customers”.

Choice consumer data advocate, Kate Bower, said the use of facial recognition by The Good Guys, Kmart and Bunnings was “completely inappropriate and unnecessary”.

When we asked them which software retailers were using to capture the so called “biometric data” of customers they were unable to identify any software being used by the retailers.

In a written response to ChannelNews a spokesperson responded claiming “We do not know the commercial details of the software they are using. You would need to approach them directly”.

This is a very basic question that they should have been able to answer and above all identify in their desperate effort to whip up hysteria among for media organisations so that they can generate publicity for Choice who rely on Government funding for a big part of their operation.

Bower claims that “Using facial recognition technology in this way is similar to Kmart, Bunnings or The Good Guys collecting your fingerprints or DNA every time you shop. Businesses using invasive technologies to capture their customers’ sensitive biometric information is unethical and is a sure way to erode consumer trust.”.

Hold on a minute this is an organisation who claims that their organisational values drive their approach to every piece of content they create, (Including it appears beat up press releases”.

Choice claims that from the investigative articles they write to the reviews they conduct in their labs and everything in between, must be accurate, impartial and independent to be truthful, to have the impact we strive for.

A recent survey by SmartHouse of consumers in NSW revealed that 95% expect retailers to capture video images of their visits to stores.

The same sample also claimed that they have no issues with retailers recording their visit.

Choice claimed that they failed to get response from The Good Guys.

ChannelNews did.

The Good Guys CEO Biag Capasso said “The Good Guys is trialling in two stores the use of a new CCTV system that can use face and feature recognition technology. This technology is used solely for the purposes of loss prevention and the safety of our store team members and customers. We let our customers know the technology is in use in these two stores through our store entrance signage, and in our privacy policy that is available on our website”.

The technology that The Good Guys are using marries publicly available consumer information from web sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and LinkedIn where consumers visiting retail stores have exposed a vast amount of personal data including images of their family along with a vast amount of other personal information.

These are consumers who actually go out of their way to drive other people to their web sites where the personal information is exposed for all and sundry to see.

Now Choice is expecting State and Federal Governments to take action against retailers who are using publicly available data to identify shop lifters or people who are area threat to retail staff.

It’s interesting that Choice has not singled out airports who use the same data capture to identify threats.

A trip to the airport will result in your image being captured multiple times by Federal Government departments, law enforcement, retailers, airlines and the very same State and Federal Governments that Choice is now calling on to take action against retailers.

In what is an utter beat-up, Choice claims that they are referring Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to investigate potential breaches of the Privacy Act over their use of facial recognition technology.

Choice claims “To make matters worse, we found 76 per cent of Australians aren’t aware that retailers are capturing their unique facial features in this way,” she said.

What they didn’t address is whether consumers actually care whether their publicly available data is available to retailers.
Nor did they identify cases of retailers using the video data to sell products to consumers.

As one Wesfarmers retailer told ChannelNews “ Just imagine if a paedophile approaches a child in store. We can not only supply a video to authorities but make sure that person is stopped from entering anyone of our stores. The same applies to people caught shoplifting”.

“If Choice were genuine, they would be lobbying against so much public information being available on social media. Consumers who genuinely don’t want publicity or their private information made available on social media are the ones whose profiles are not available for comparison”.

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