It seems that Woolworths is trialling a new security system at self-service checkouts that isn’t sitting well with some customers. The new system shows a digital reflection of customers at the point of sale, which makes it seem like they are being filmed.
This new security system was brought to light on Twitter, after several users publicly called out Woolworths for filming them at the self-service checkout.
“@woolworths Was shocked to learn that I was being filmed by the self serve register as I scanned my groceries this afternoon. Gross invasion of privacy. #BigBrotherWoollies ,” one user tweeted on Thursday.
“For how long has Woolworths been filming me while using self-checkouts,” tweeted Branwell Travers on Friday.
Traver’s tweets included a photo of the new system, which shows what appears to be a recording of the customer in the top right corner of the checkout screen. Despite appearances, Woolworths has stated that it is a mere “digital reflection” that is being trialled as a new security measure.
“In terms of the actual checkout, there were no signs that a new system was in place – I got half way through scanning my basket of items and saw in the corner of my eye a little video,” said Towers to PTV.
“It took me a while to work out it was a video of me. I was kinda confused and thought maybe it was a malfunction or something – but I looked over my shoulder and saw the person next to me had the same thing.”
Travers confirmed that he was at Fitzroy Woolworth on Smith Street in Victoria.
For how long has Woolworths been filming me while using self-checkouts? pic.twitter.com/SVQ0aN2UX5
— BT (@Br_Tr) May 29, 2020
Woolworths responded to one of its customer on Friday, telling them that it’s not a recording and that if they don’t want to be part of the trial they can use a staffed checkout instead.
“We know most of our customers do the right thing at our self-serve checkouts, however we’re trialling this new security technology for those that don’t,” A Woolworths spokesperson said in a Tweet.
“This recording is only a live reflection of you, and will only be shown on the self checkout screen in front of you. If you do not wish to be a part of the trial, you are welcome to use the staffed checkouts.”
But as Travers pointed out, there was no signage to indicate a security trial was in place so they have potentially not been able to make an informed decision about whether to use self-service or staffed checkouts in the stores conducting these trials. Gizmodo Australia has reached out to Woolworths regarding consent and informed decision making and will update this story when we hear back.
This recording is only a live reflection of you, and will only be shown on the self checkout screen in front of you. If you do not wish to be a part of the trial, you are welcome to use the staffed checkouts. 2/2
— Woolworths (@woolworths) May 28, 2020
Woolworths sent a similar response to Gizmodo Australia over email and but confirmed the camera was not recording or storing video. “The image is a digital reflection of a customer on the screen. It’s not recorded or stored.”
It is our understanding that the cameras can’t view the PIN pad and that the technology is compliant with payment and security standards.
It is also our understanding that this new security measure is designed as a deterrent in order to encourage customers “do the right thing” at the self-serve checkouts.
It’s perhaps understandable that some may be wary of this new system considering Woolworths history of data collection. Its Scan&Go system, which allows customers to scan their items in store and “tap off” to pay and leave, requires a lot of user data. Anyone who wants to use this system needs to a member of Woolworths Rewards, which requires you to divulge your name, address, phone number, email address, data of birth and gender at sign up.