Aussie convenience store took face biometrics without consent — privacy regulator
It probably sounded like a good idea at the time. Convenience-store chain 7-Eleven reportedly used biometrics-based facial analysis systems in Australia to weed out untruthful responses in a customer survey campaign.
Australian privacy regulators found that executives of the chain collected and analyzed the face images and faceprints of customers as they were asked about their views of 7-Eleven. Because the data is considered biometric, either informed consent or proportionality requirements must be met.
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office the data was collected without consent illegally from June 2020 to August 2021. Tablets with cameras were installed in 700 stores, recording 1.6 million surveys in the first 10 months of the campaign.
While the company felt it necessary to use biometric data to determine when people volunteering feedback were lying, the government determined it “was not reasonably necessary for the respondent’s functions and activities.”
The commissioner has said that 7-Eleven stopped collecting images and prints in feedback operations. All face images have been destroyed, and the chain has been ordered to the same with all biometric data.
Use of the technology in retail outlets in the United States is ill-defined but widespread. A ZDNet article from July quotes privacy advocates who claim Lowes, Albertsons, Macy’s and others use face biometrics to spot shoplifters.
Other retailers reportedly have sworn off the technology completely. Those businesses include Walmart, Kroger, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Costco and others.