In today’s world, it has long become the norm that Big Brother (or rather big business) is always watching. In Australia, we live in a (tarnished) gold age of surveillance and the biggest drivers of it have been corporations. Stepping into many major stores often involves being surveilled by security cameras and guards as well as having to pass through gates and scanners.
Even shopping somewhere like Kmart from now on may involve being surveilled by an AI. The department store chain has quietly rolled-out a trial of the same self-serve checkout surveillance technology as Woolworths and Coles to detect mis-scanned items.
The new technology uses camera vision and AI to detect when items are not scanned correctly. Whenever the system detects a missed scan, it will pause the register and allow the customer to correct the scan before a Kmart staff member is called.
The staff member watching the self-serve checkouts will then be able to review the footage and determine if the item was scanned correctly. Woolworths began to trial this technology last year and Coles followed suit. Both supermarket giants have since gone one step further with security gates and staff body cameras.
Speaking to 7News.com.au, a Kmart spokesperson explained the purpose of the trials.
“In the current cost-of-living crisis, we are proud to be able to continue to offer the same low (or even lower) prices to customers,” the spokesperson began.
“The reason we are exploring technology options like this, as many others in the industry have already done, is because they have been shown to be effective in managing what is becoming a larger issue in Australia and help us continue to keep prices low for the vast majority of our customers who are doing the right thing,” they continued.
The spokesperson appears to be referring to the rise in shoplifting at supermarkets amidst the rising cost of living crisis.
“The technology that is being trialled here is that which other large retailers and supermarkets use and detects items that have been incorrectly scanned so the customer can double-check they’ve scanned all their items,” the spokesperson explained
“For the vast majority of our customers, there will be no impact on their shopping experience. Customers can opt-out by having a team member assist them in their checkout, and there is signage in store explaining the purpose of the trial.”
Naturally, this has sparked significant controversy amongst shoppers already.
“The profits the big stores make is sickening. We go shopping, giving hard earned cash for products we need and then [are] asked to scan and pay for the items by yourself so they employ one person watching 1 to 10+ checkouts,” said one irate commenter.
“Awesome, now they can treat me like a criminal at the checkout and the exit,” said another commenter.
Consumer advocate group CHOICE has long been advocating for the government to do more to protect the privacy of shoppers from surveillance technologies.