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Retail giants Bunnings and Kmart have both paused the use of facial recognition technology amid an ongoing investigation from the national privacy watchdog.

The Good Guys announced two weeks after that it would be put its facial recognition trial on hold, and today Bunnings and Kmart both confirmed they would pause their use of the technology while the OAIC investigation is ongoing.

People queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at a Bunnings hardware store in Brisbane.
People queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at a Bunnings hardware store in Brisbane. (Getty)

“We’ve confirmed to the OAIC that the technology is temporarily switched off in our stores and given an investigation is underway we won’t be using it for the time being,” Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider told 9News.

The company had already temporarily switched the technology in its stores as it moves to a new system.

Schneider accused Choice of mischaracterising the Bunnings’ use of facial recognition, saying the technology is used to prevent criminal activity.

“When we have customers berate our team, pull weapons, spit, or throw punches, we ban them from our stores. But a ban isn’t effective if it’s hard to enforce,” he said.

Kmart notified customers of the technology via small signs at the entrance. (CHOICE)

“Facial recognition gives us a chance to identify when a banned person enters a store so we can support our team to handle the situation before it escalates.

“For absolute clarity, an individual’s image is only retained by the system if they are already enrolled in the database of individuals who are banned or associated with crime in our stores.

“We don’t use it for marketing or customer behaviour tracking, and we certainly don’t use it to identify regular customers who enter our stores as Choice has suggested.

“We’re extremely disappointed that Choice has chosen to mischaracterise the issue, especially given the extensive explanations we have provided to them.”

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Kmart also said it only uses the technology in relation to crime in its stores.

“We believe our use of facial recognition technology for the limited purpose of preventing criminal activity such as refund fraud is appropriate and its use is subject to strict controls,” a Kmart spokesperson told 9News.

“We do not use this technology to track customer behaviour or for marketing purposes.

“We have temporarily stopped the use of this technology in our small number of trial stores given the commencement of the OAIC investigation.”

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