Privacy commissioner ‘following up’ with Calgary mall using facial recognition software

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Concerns are being raised over the use of facial recognition software in malls owned by Cadillac Fairview – Jul 31, 2018

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said it is “following up” with Cadillac Fairview – the company that owns the Chinook Centre – after the company disclosed it is testing facial recognition technology in mall directories.

News of the software came to light after a shopper saw a window on a directory at the Chinook Centre that showed what appeared to be facial-recognition data, including codes like “gender/inception” and “age/inception.”

READ MORE: Calgary mall defends use of facial-recognition technology after customer discovers they’re being watched

Cadillac Fairview said the data is used to better understand mall traffic patterns and insists that no video or pictures are stored.

“Given we are not storing images, we do not require consent,” a statement from the company said.

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said it has been following the story with interest and will be reaching out to Cadillac Fairview.

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“We will be following up with the company to better understand the situation, including the company’s assertion that it is not collecting personal information,” said senior communications advisor Tobi Cohen.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is the federal agency charged with protecting the privacy rights of Canadian citizens and oversees compliance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Cohen said the agency believes facial recognition technology has the potential to be the most “highly invasive” of current identifying technologies.

READ MORE: Microsoft warns that facial recognition tech brings ‘human rights risks’

“Faces have been transformed into electronic information that can be aggregated, analyzed and categorized in unprecedented ways,” he said. “What makes biometric data in general so valuable, and so sensitive, is that it is a uniquely measurable characteristic of our body and a key to our identity.”

“Facial recognition technology can raise particular concerns as it can be used without a person’s knowledge.”

The agency has reached out to Alberta’s privacy commissioner to discuss the matter as well.

To date, the agency has not received any complaints involving the Chinook Centre directories.

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