Speculation has swirled after a customer spotted small cameras on the shelves of one Woolworths store.
In June the supermarket giant revealed it would install more than 500 “bite-sized” cameras on every shelf of its Wetherill Park store in NSW to help improve product availability.
Some customers, however, have raised doubt about whether the technology is actually being used for customer surveillance as the cost of living crisis drags on.
One such customer, known as Kaz, uploaded a video of the new cameras to TikTok on Monday.
“Woolworths stepping up their anti-theft game,” she captioned the video.
“(The store) now has little cameras everywhere to prevent five finger discounts!”
The supermarket giant came under fire in the comments by some consumers who questioned why funds were being allocated to the trial while grocery prices remained high.
“So they can spend millions probably installing and purchasing these cameras and putting them in stores but yet can’t lower prices…” one person commented.
“Can do this but can’t lower prices,” said another.
“In the bread aisle makes it particularly dystopian,” commented another.
This comes after Coles and Woolworths both announced they made an eye-watering $1.1bn and $1.6bn in profits respectively over the last financial year.
What are the mini cameras actually for?
Woolworths said the mini cameras, which are attached to the underside of shelves near the displayed prices, take photos hourly to alert staff to which items need restocking.
“We’ve recently begun a trial of new camera technology at the store to assist our teams by reducing manual processes and with replenishment tasks, such as real-time inventory management and restocking prioritisation,” the spokesperson said.
“This is expected to improve product availability throughout the day for all our customers, not just at regular intervals.
“We’ll listen to feedback from our Wetherill Park customers and team members over the coming months before assessing our next steps.”
The supermarket giant also said that any customers photographed by the cameras will be blurred from pictures.
Signage has been placed outside the Wetherill Park store to notify customers of the trial before they enter the shop.
This comes as Woolworths continues to adopt artificial intelligence in its store more widely, following a year-long trial of self-checkout AI cameras.
Hundreds of stores across NSW, Queensland and Victoria have now implemented the surveillance technology which observes customers scanning items.
Woolworths said the cameras help to prevent “misscans”.
The trial of self-service cameras began in February last year, with more than 250 stores adopting the change in 2023.
If the camera detects any scanning errors, footage captured is replayed to the customer on the screen to give them an opportunity to re-scan.
“It helps reduce misscans and is one of a number of initiatives we’ve rolled out across our checkouts to make shopping more convenient and seamless,” a spokesperson said during the trial phase.
“While most customers do the right thing at our self-serve checkouts, we’re all busy and mistakes can easily happen.”
In 2022 both Bunnings and Kmart suspended trials of facial recognition technology in stores following an investigation by the privacy commissioner.
Woolworths customers wishing to opt out of the self-checkout surveillance are able to use traditional check-outs in store.