A visitor discovered that the tactile touch devices at the Chinook Mall in Calgary uses facial recognition software without permission. This puts privacy at risk, according to an expert.
At least two Calgary shopping centers use face recognition on tactile landmarks without user consent. Technology allows them to estimate the age and gender of visitors.
That’s what a Reddit user discovered. Under the pseudonym Jizztowel, he posted a photo on Tuesday showing a browser window that had accidentally opened on a touch-screen-oriented Chinook Mall in south Calgary.
The curious visitor discovers that a facial recognition software works in the background of the interactive map he was using. On the picture posted, we can see that it is Mappedin.
Cadillac Fairview, owner of the Chinook Mall, explained that this software has been in use since June. It is used to count people who use this service and to predict their age and gender, without recording a photo or video.
According to the company, the software is also used at the Market Mall, which it also runs, and at other shopping centers in Canada.
“We do not ask users for approval because we do not take any pictures,” says a spokesman. “Data is used to ensure a better shopping experience.”
“A big concern”
Facial recognition is increasingly used in shopping malls to analyze consumer behavior, to sell targeted spaces to advertisers or for security reasons.
According to Sharon Polsky, President of the Canadian Access and Privacy Council, the general public would be shocked to see how widespread facial recognition surveillance has become. “People are not well informed and they are often given the opportunity to withdraw their consent,” she says.
According to Ms. Polsky, the companies would be content to install a sign mentioning video surveillance without describing the impact that this may have. “From the point of view of civil liberties, from the point of view of the protection of the private life, from the point of view of the exercise of our rights, it is a great concern,” she worries.
Data from video surveillance, information collected through phones connected to a public WIFI, or facial recognition, all this could be combined and the result of this profiling can have a negative impact on privacy, according to the report. ‘expert.
Is it legal?
According to the Federal Privacy Act, what these shopping malls do is legal as long as they inform that data is being collected and records are not being kept.
The developer of Mappedin, a software program used at the Chinook Center in Calgary, has confirmed by email to CBC that their tool can review facial recognition data.
The number of Calgary locations using similar software is not yet known. But officials at North Hill Shopping Center, Sunridge Mall and CrossIron Mills in Calgary said they did not use facial recognition technology.
The spokesman for Marlborough Mall and Westbrook Mall refrained from commenting. The Core and Southcentre shopping centers did not respond to our requests.