Louisiana Digital News

Australian Casinos Test Facial Recognition, Concept Faces Controversy


Posted on: June 27, 2022, 05:42h. 

Last updated on: June 27, 2022, 10:51h.

In Australia, a number of retailers use facial recognition to identify their customers, according to recent reports, That led to the question of whether casinos in the country are doing the same, and it turns out they are.

Star Sydney
The sign for Star Entertainment’s Star Sydney in Sydney, Australia. The casino is one in the country to have deployed controversial facial recognition technology. (Image: Flickr)

Endeavour Group, Australia’s largest hotel and drinks business, announced plans to use facial recognition technology in October of last year to combat problem gamblers. In addition, Star Entertainment claims that it uses the technology in its Sydney casino to reduce the risk of entry by excluded gamblers.

Facial recognition is a hot-button topic around the world. Among other things, it faces accusations of being “racially biased.” Some US states and other jurisdictions are working to ban its use. However, Australia is arriving late. As such, it hasn’t yet approved any type of restrictions or bans.

Retailers claim that facial recognition technology is used to prevent “loss prevention.” But others believe they could use the data for targeted marketing. Large Australian chains like K-Mart and The Good Guys, according to consumer advocacy group Choice, assert that they use facial recognition technology to “enhance” customers’ shopping experience. However, critics often see it as an invasion of privacy and manipulation of their sensitive data.

We See You

Following Crown Resorts’ fall in several Australian states, as well as Star’s own potentially criminal saga, the Queensland government last month began to make changes to casino regulations. Star believes that facial recognition can help it better adhere to current and future laws, as it hopes to stay out of trouble.

However, it might learn that it is going about it the wrong way. The notification to customers that the technology is in use, depending on the location, is poor. In some cases, it’s only in small and hard-to-notice signs. In others, there are online notifications that customers rarely see.

Similar results are being observed in the Australian police’s use of facial recognition technology. They have used national and state databases for their purposes, even though there is no legislation allowing them to use the nationwide databases.

Too Much at Risk

The Australian Information Commissioner found that Clearview AI’s commercial face recognition app, which police have used, infringes on Australians’ privacy. In addition, in 2020, it was also used by a billionaire to identify his daughter’s date. The Ukrainian government is currently using it to identify Russian soldiers killed in combat.

With police and retailers actively incorporating the technology, and Star admitting to its use, there’s not much stopping companies from selling the data. To them, just like Google, Facebook, and others, it’s simply another monetization exercise for their bottom line.

The use of the technology and the lack of consent on the part of consumers has already led to a number of lawsuits in play in various courts in the US, Europe, and Australia. In addition, regulators found convenience store chain 7-Eleven guilty of stealing faceprints from over 1.6 million Australian customers during satisfaction surveys.

7-Eleven said it gathered the faceprints to create demographic profiles and stop staff from cheating on surveys. However, despite its guilt, the chain did not receive a fine or pay any type of penalty.

A parliamentarian in Australia introduced a law that would govern facial recognition technology in 2019. However, a legislative committee rejected the idea. It determined that the technology did not provide adequate privacy protections.

Instead of working on a solution to address those shortcomings, the initiative lies almost dormant. There is discussion in legislative circles to develop a solution, but they aren’t moving quickly. In the meantime, casinos and sportsbooks could be trading personal data on gamblers and bettors without consumers knowing.

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