Company suspends use of mall directory cameras running facial recognition software
Cadillac Fairview had been testing the technology since June, but didn't tell mall patrons
The Canadian real estate company behind some of the country's most popular shopping centres says it is suspending the use of cameras embedded in its mall directories while provincial and federal privacy commissioners investigate their usage.
Cadillac Fairview says they've been using facial recognition software in their mall directories since June to track shoppers' ages and genders without telling them.
The company now says they are suspending use of the cameras inside mall maps, including at Chinook Centre and Market Mall in Calgary.
- Privacy commissioners to investigate use of facial recognition at Calgary malls
- At least two malls are using facial recognition technology to track shoppers' ages and genders without telling
The move comes after both the Alberta and federal privacy commissioners announced they were launching investigations into the use of facial recognition technology without the public's consent.
In an email to CBC News, Cadillac Fairview's director of corporate communications, Janine Ramparas, said they were suspending use of the cameras as a response to at least one of those investigations.
"We will co-operate fully with the investigation throughout the process. We have suspended use of the cameras pending resolution of this matter," wrote Ramparas.
The company refused a request for an interview and would not clarify if all Cadillac Fairview malls across Canada were affected, or just the shopping centres in Calgary. The real estate company had previously told CBC News the software to predict age or gender was only being tested and had not been fully rolled out.
The facial recognition software was initially discovered when a visitor to Calgary's Chinook Centre spotted an application window seemingly left open by accident on a digital mall directory, exposing facial-recognition software running in the background.
The visitor took a photo and posted it to the social networking site Reddit.
If there was nothing wrong with it, what's there to suspend?- Sharon Polsky, president of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada
A Calgary privacy advocate welcomes the move, but said the company should have been more forthcoming about what they were doing in the first place.
"It is very interesting to see that as soon as the commissioners announced they were investigating that Cadillac Fairview quite quickly suspended the use of this technology," said Sharon Polsky, president of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada.
"If there was nothing wrong with it, what's there to suspend?"
Investigations could provide guidance
The Privacy and Access Council of Canada had also asked Alberta's privacy commissioner to investigate whether Cadillac Fairview's use of facial recognition violated the law.
According to Polsky, questions remain that could be addressed by the commissioner's investigation.
"Whatever the outcome, it will be important guidance. Either they will say yes, what Cadillac Fairview is doing ... is fine, or they will make recommendations," said Polsky.
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