New Zealand Grocery Stores Adding Facial Recognition, Police Want Open Discussion

By Masha Borak

Facial recognition is entering New Zealand’s grocery stores and the rapid expansion of the technology has been filling the country’s newspaper headlines.

On Wednesday, Deputy Police Commissioner Tania Kura called for an open discussion on facial recognition trials in commercial areas, including the bias and privacy issues they entail.

“I can see the benefits and the efficiency that can come and the reassurance it can provide some parts but how do we balance that with individual rights and freedoms,” Kura says, according to Waatea News. “It’s an interesting dilemma for us and I think New Zealand probably needs to have that open discussion as well because not everybody sees it the same.”

The police statement comes after New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster announced last week that he will oversee a new facial recognition trial by the grocery cooperative Foodstuffs North Island. The company announced it plans to implement the technology in 25 of its New World and Pak’nSave stores for 6 months in order to combat retail crime.

Thieves are not the only people who can expect to be monitored at stores in New Zealand.

Shoppers using Woolworths’ new loyalty card Everyday Rewards received a surprise this week after it was discovered that the supermarket chain introduced clauses in its terms and conditions allowing it to record license plates and capture video and audio of customers that can be used to identify them. The clauses are tucked away in a privacy policy.

Woolworths says that video and audio recordings are made for security, safety and theft prevention reasons.

Woolworths has attracted concerns for similar practices in neighboring Australia, where the company invested in CCTV upgrades, body-worn cameras and other devices.

Australia has been facing similar conversations on facial recognition in retail. Last year, the government announced it would be looking into facial recognition tools in retail, while this year, the country started exploring the introduction of regulation for AI.

Source: Biometric Update

Masha Borak is a technology journalist. Her work has appeared in Wired, Business Insider, Rest of World, and other media outlets. Previously she reported for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Reach out to her at

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