Australia’s two biggest supermarkets are taking increasingly drastic measures to combat theft and violent behavior in their stores – but experts say it could lead to a sense of “distrust” and “trauma” among customers.
Retailers say the moves are necessary to combat a problem that costs $9 billion a year, but they are described by privacy activists as excessive and likely to unfairly target the most vulnerable members of society.
Coles said this week it would introduce a range of high-tech security measures in stores across the country, including ceiling cameras to track customers’ every move, improved AI cameras at checkouts and “smart gates” that automatically lock when someone tried to make a runner with goods you didn’t pay for.
The store also announced that body-worn cameras – similar to those used by police or bouncers – would be used in some of its riskiest stores to protect staff from an alarming increase in violence
Coles’ body-worn cameras are being tested in the supermarket giant’s stores
Australia’s two biggest supermarkets are taking increasingly drastic measures to combat theft and violent behavior in their stores – but experts say it could lead to a sense of “distrust” and “trauma” among customers
Woolworths has also increased security, with the introduction of improved cameras to monitor customers at self-checkouts receiving mixed reviews.
“It is important to note that the majority of customers in store are doing the right thing.” “Measures like this are for those who are not doing it,” a Coles said a spokesman.
Privacy activists say the additional security measures place an unnecessary burden on people in their daily lives.
The new security will only increase the “fear of being constantly watched”, said Mary Ilias, senior lecturer in criminology at Deakin University.
According to Dr. According to Ilias, the cameras will also “increase feelings of trauma and mistrust” among vulnerable people.
She fears that innocent people who appear unsettled or shaky, perhaps due to a physical or mental condition, may be unfairly affected by the new security measures, leading to unnecessary suffering.
Retail advocates countered, saying the new technology wouldn’t be rolled out if customers weren’t happy with it.
“New technologies such as body cameras are being trialled by some stores here and overseas, within privacy laws and with careful consideration of staff and customer feedback,” Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said.
Retailers say the steps are necessary to combat a $9 billion-a-year problem
Retail staff will wear the new cameras to combat theft and violence in Coles stores
“It is in retailers’ interests to ensure their customers feel comfortable and comfortable in stores and this type of technology is primarily designed to ensure the safety of frontline retail staff and customers.”
Woolworths introduced a similarly bold security measure to prevent this will continue to ensure the safety of its employees in 2021 This was widely praised by buyers.
“The use of these cameras has resulted in a significant reduction in the abusive and physical incidents experienced by our team members in stores,” a Woolies spokesperson said.
To address privacy concerns, supermarket spokespeople said footage from the new cameras would not be retained for “more than a few weeks” and the cameras would comply with Australian law.
But while consumers have welcomed measures to protect supermarket staff, many have also raised concerns about the growing number of cameras in stores.
Controversial overhead AI checkout cameras fitted to self-checkouts in both Coles and Woolworths have been widely criticized as customers claim the relentless surveillance is “completely unacceptable”.
Some footage was captured during a recent trial using the body-worn cameras
Many customers took to social media to express their displeasure (pictured at a Woolworths self-checkout).
Ultimately, the question comes down to whether the new measures represent too much of an overreach for companies to protect their profits, experts say.
“I think Coles might want to consider other approaches that don’t default to surveillance,” said Monique Mann, deputy chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation.
“Let’s think about why we’re seeing an increase in shoplifting.” Why are people aggressive towards employees? People are fighting. At the same time, Coles and Woolworths are posting huge profits (over $1 billion) in the midst of a cost of living crisis. “Maybe they should think about it and try to reduce the pressure on the cost of living rather than just expanding surveillance and their profits,” Dr. Man.
Mr Zahra said theft was estimated to cost Australian retailers $9 billion a year, although he said many crimes still went unreported.
“Retailers are using these technologies in accordance with strict data protection laws and have strict protocols in place.”