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Inquiry Into Foodstuffs North Island’s FRT Trial Starts Today

Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster has today started his Inquiry into Foodstuffs North Island’s trial of facial recognition technology (FRT) in 25 of its supermarkets.

The Inquiry is designed to monitor the way stores are running the trial to ensure that it is compliant with the Privacy Act. It will also inform the Commissioner’s assessment of the effectiveness of the use of FRT in reducing harmful behaviour in Foodstuffs North Island supermarkets once the trial is completed.

Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster says: "At the end of the six-month trial I will be assessing the evidence that the use of FRT is justified. Has it made a practical and statistically significant difference to the incidence of retail crime in Foodstuffs North Island supermarkets relative to other less intrusive options?"

"Using facial recognition technology to reduce harmful behaviour in supermarkets raises significant privacy risks and the trial is itself not without risk. That is why I will be paying close attention to the privacy safeguards being used during the trial using my Inquiry powers".

The Inquiry will monitor things like:

  • the privacy and data protection safeguards and controls stores have in place, how they are being used in practice and whether they are sufficient to manage risks
  • whether people having their faces scanned are confident that their data is being used safely (for example, how are they told about the trial, can they appeal being added to a watchlist)
  • whether any bias or accuracy issues are occurring
  • staff training
  • what happens in the store after the system creates an alert that someone on the watchlist has been identified.
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The work won’t get in the way of customers doing their supermarket shopping or impact the ability of the stores to take appropriate action to keep staff and customers safe.

"The use of this technology could have significant implications in retail in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is no known other current use of facial recognition technology in the retail sector in New Zealand. Its use generally across New Zealand to scan and identify an individual in real time and compare them against a database of faces is rare."

Where FRT is used it tends to be in situations where an individual is seeking to verify their identity to access a device or a service, and not an essential service such as a supermarket. As such there is high public interest in the operation and outcome of this trial.

The Commissioner is also keen to hear from the public, particularly customers of the participating trial stores, about if and how the trial is impacting them. They can provide comment to us at

The Privacy Commissioner is conducting the Inquiry under section 17(1)(i) of the Privacy Act 2020.

The following stores are trialling facial recognition:

- New World Regent, 167 Bank Street, Regent, Whangārei 0112

- New World Kaikohe. 8 Marino Place, Kaikohe 0405

- PAK’nSAVE Silverdale. 20 Hibiscus Coast Highway, Silverdale 0993

- PAK’nSAVE Ormiston. 1 Bellingham Road, Flat Bush, Auckland 2019

- PAK’nSAVE Sylvia Park. 286 Mount Wellington Highway, Sylvia Park, Auckland 1060

- PAK’nSAVE Manukau, 6 Cavendish Drive, Manukau City Centre, Auckland 2104

- PAK’nSAVE Papamoa, 42 Domain Road, Papamoa Beach, Papamoa 3118

- New World Te Rapa, 751 Te Rapa Road, Te Rapa, Hamilton 3200

- PAK’nSAVE Mill Street. 17 Mill Street, Whitiora, Hamilton 3200

- New World Westend. 247 Old Taupo Road, Hillcrest, Rotorua 3015

- New World Brookfield. 89 Bellevue Road, Brookfield, Tauranga 3110

- New World Gate Pa. 948 Cameron Road, Gate Pa, Tauranga 3112

- New World Mt Maunganui. Cnr Tweed St & Maunganui Rd, Mt Maunganui 3116

- PAK’nSAVE Napier. 25 Munroe Street, Napier South, Napier 4110

- PAK’nSAVE Tamatea. Cnr Leicester Avenue & Coventry Ave, Tamatea, Napier 4112

- PAK’nSAVE New Plymouth. 53 Leach Street, New Plymouth Central, New Plymouth 4310

- PAK’nSAVE Taupo, 105/131 Ruapehu Street, Taupō 3330

- New World Pioneer. 179/197 Main Street, Takaro, Palmerston North 4412

- PAK’nSAVE Palmerston North. 327 Ferguson Street, Palmerston North 4410

- New World Levin. 21 Bath Street, Levin 5510

- PAK’nSAVE Upper Hutt, Gibbons Street, Upper Hutt Central, Upper Hutt 5018

- PAK’nSAVE Whangarei, Walton Street, Whangārei 0110

- New World Feilding, 42 Aorangi Street, Feilding 4702

- PAK’nSAVE Papakura, 331-345 Great South Road, Takanini, Auckland, 2112

- PAK’nSAVE Whanganui, 167 Glasgow Street, Whanganui 4500



- As is the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s standard regulatory practice, the Inquiry will be conducted in private, and any public statements will be limited during the Inquiry.

- Earlier statements OPC has made about the Foodstuffs North Island FRT trial are on our website:



- OPC will soon be opening public consultation on their exposure draft of a biometrics code, which is different to this work.

- Read the full terms of reference on our website

- Woolworths Scan Assist programme is not part of this because it is owned by another organisation, not Foodstuffs North Island.

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