The Australian Information Commissioner is reported highly suspicious of Bunnings & Kmart hiring thousands of sketch artists in the wake of ditching their controversial facial recognition cameras.
The fear is that while Bunnings agrees not to digitally record and store the images of customers’ faces, there is nothing stopping them from maintaining a hefty scrapbook of mugs run by a team of people specialising in unique facial nuances.
Cynics would suggest that keeping a detailed sketch of every customer’s face every time they enter would allow Bunnings to cross-reference said sketches much in the same way as facial recognition cameras can.
Bunnings maintain they were only using the cameras for good but ultimately bowed to pressure after Choice outed them using the technology.
They further state that the huge recruitment drive of highly skilled sketch artists has nothing to do with their unquenchable thirst for people’s bio-data.
A spokesperson for the company told The Times,
“Sketch artists are a lot of fun. No one should read into the fact we have been headhunting ex-court and police sketch artists. We just want to provide the public a chance to get a hilarious caricature whether they know it or not. Then maybe those sketches are kept in a scrap book which may or may not be used to cross reference. What’s the problem?”
Privacy experts say that human sketch artists can’t compete with the work rate of a camera but do have some unique advantages. Such an expert told The Times,
“What a human can do that a camera struggles with is to imagine a face without a sausage being stuffed into it. So they can recreate what the person’s face would likely look like if they weren’t double banging a snaggeroonie on a Satdee morning”
We spoke to a sketch artist who applied for the position but was knocked back after questioning his role within the company. He told The Times,
“They kept asking me if I would be able to identify the same face twice. I said, of course, that’s my bread and butter but I thought you wanted me to do funny caricatures and shit?”
Ultimately, should the public fear having their face sketched by trained artists every time they enter the store if they have nothing to hide?
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