Convenience store group 7-Eleven has stopped collecting customers facial images and faceprints after an investigation by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

The company has destroyed any images previously collected.

Between June 2020 and August 2021, 7-Eleven asked customers across 700 stores to complete customer satisfaction surveys on tablets with built-in cameras, on which it collected ‘faceprints’ of customers to determine which responses were genuine.

Commissioner Angelene Falk found that customers did not give either their express or implied consent to the collection of their facial images, nor did 7-Eleven take reasonable steps to notify individuals of the collection.

“While I accept that implementing systems to understand and improve customers’ experience is a legitimate function for 7-Eleven’s business, any benefits to the business in collecting this biometric information were not proportional to the impact on privacy.”

A 7-Eleven spokesperson told C&I that they had accepted the Commissioner’s determination.

“The feedback system was designed to take a photograph of each customer who completed the survey in order to automatically identify and filter out non-genuine responses by the same person repeatedly completing the survey in a short space of time. On being notified of the Commissioner’s findings, we promptly disabled this feature and all images taken by the system in our stores have been permanently deleted.”

Commissioner Falk found the facial images were sensitive information covered under the Privacy Act 1988 because they were ‘biometric information that was used for the purpose of automated biometric identification’.

“Biometric information is unique to an individual and cannot normally be changed. Entities must carefully consider whether they need to collect this sensitive personal information, and whether the privacy impacts are proportional to achieving the entity’s legitimate functions or activities.”

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