Some 1984-style technology has been utilized in an almost laughable manner on the Island.
(Cue nervous chuckling.)
It’s been discovered that multiple Canadian Tire stores in BC have been using facial recognition technology (FRT) to track customers for potential shoplifting.
Collecting customers’ biometric information without informing customers of the practice or receiving consent.
BC’s Privacy Commissioner called it a huge breach of privacy rights.
They launched an investigation into four of the twelve locations discovered to be utilizing facial recognition technology, many of which were on Vancouver Island.
“The investigation showed the stores did not adequately notify customers and did not obtain consent for the collection of personal information using FRT,” said their report, released recently.
“Even if the stores had obtained consent, which they failed to do, they were still required to demonstrate a reasonable purpose for collection and use. The investigation found that they did not do so.”
So how exactly was collecting biometric data helping managers keep track of shoplifters?
After collecting customers’ facial images, they created biometric templates of them and compared these with a database of previous offenders in the same region.
Essentially red flagging people when they walked in if they had stolen or been rude to staff.
Canadian Tire Corporation clarified that facial recognition technology has not and won’t be used at any corporate stores or offices. All the locations found to be using the tech were independently owned.
But moving forward, all stores operating under the brand will be prohibited from using facial recognition technology.
“Customers can remain confident that regardless of where they shop across our group of companies, their privacy will be protected,” said spokesperson Carolyn Skinner in an e-mail.
While this may not be happening at any local Canadian Tires anymore, the fact it has been happening makes you wonder how many other stores have tried the same.
Michael McEvoy, who led the investigation, said in a press release government needs to take action to stop private companies from utilizing such invasive technology on the public.
“Government needs to tighten regulation related to those who install technologies like FRT. It’s ironic that regulation applies to those who sell and install old closed-circuit television systems, but not those who deploy the even more invasive facial recognition technology.”
Citizens’ Services Minister Lisa Beare stressed that protection does already exist through the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
This is why the commissioner was able to take action in this case.
However, PIPA enforcement still relies on someone discovering that facial recognition technology is being utilized.
Without this investigation being launched, we’d likely never have known Canadian Tire Money wasn’t the only unnecessary trinket being tossed around their backroom.