7-Eleven told to delete customers’ photos after facial recognition software falls under privacy commissioner’s scope

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Convenience store giant 7-Eleven has been told to “destroy” millions of photos of customers captured by facial recognition software after the privacy commissioner found it contravened policy.

The chain last year rolled out tablets across hundreds of stores in New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and WA for customers to fill in feedback surveys.

Each tablet had a camera built in, that took a photo of customers when they started the survey and when they submitted it.

In a statement to 7NEWS.com.au, it said it was designed to prevent the “system being gamed”.

“The use of facial recognition within the Rate It tablet is to ensure that the feedback is accurate and valid, and given customer feedback is so important to us we don’t want the system being ‘gamed’,” a spokesperson said last June.

A stock image of a 7-Eleven store in Brisbane. Credit: DAN PELED/AAPIMAGE

“The technology is not used for any other purpose.”

Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk, however, found on Thursday the collection of images interfered with the privacy of customers who completed surveys.

It concluded that the collection of biometric information was “not reasonably necessary for the purpose of understanding and improving customers’ in-store experience”.

Falk also found that the acquisition of information was done without adequate consent.

“Any benefit to the respondent was disproportionate to and failed to justify, the potential harms associated with the collection and handling of sensitive biometric information.”

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7-Eleven argued that signs had been posted in stores advising customers they were consenting to having cameras capture them by entering the stores.

The privacy policy on its website also mentioned it could collect biometric information – but did not explicitly connect this with the tablets.

7-Eleven has since disabled the mage capture aspect of its survey system.

Falk said 7-Eleven had 90 days to “destroy all faceprints” captured by the face recognition technology and provide written confirmation to her office it had done so.

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