World News – CA – Cadillac Fairview Secretly Collects Images From 5 Million Buyers Across Canada: Privacy Commissioners


An investigation into the use of facial recognition technology by Cadillac Fairview in a dozen Canadian malls found that the real estate company had collected the images of five million unsuspecting people buyers from across the country

The results of the investigation, conducted by the federal government, Alberta and BC privacy commissioners, were released Thursday

According to the report, the company has integrated small, discreet cameras into its shopping center directories in 12 Canadian malls (two in Alberta, two in BC, one in Manitoba, five in Ontario and two in Quebec) which have collected images of customers without their knowledge or consent

Cadillac Fairview said it uses facial recognition technology to determine the age and gender of buyers, and that the images taken by the cameras are analyzed briefly before being deleted

He argued that shoppers were notified of the activity through stickers placed on doors to enter malls, but commissioners determined that was not enough to obtain meaningful consent

« Buyers had no reason to expect their image to be collected by a discreet camera, or that it would be used, along with facial recognition technology, for analysis, » said said Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien

« Questions about when an organization collects personal information can be complex, but the conclusion we came to about cameras in shopping center directories was straightforward, » BC Information Commissioner and to privacy protection Michael McEvoy said

Although Cadillac Fairview said the images were not kept on file, investigators found that sensitive biometric information generated from the images was stored in a centralized database by a third party

« Cadillac Fairview said it was unaware the biometric information database existed, which compounded the risk of potential use by unauthorized parties or, in the event of a data breach, by malicious actors « , reads a press release

Cadillac Fairview is one of the largest commercial real estate companies in North America with 69 properties in Canada, including the Toronto-Dominion Center, CF Toronto Eaton Center, CF Pacific Center, CF Chinook Center, the Tour Deloitte and the CF Carrefour Laval

The investigation was launched after the discovery of the use of facial recognition software in 2018

Since then, Cadillac Fairview has removed cameras from its digital directory kiosks and said it does not currently have plans to reinstall the technology

It also removed all information associated with cameras that is not required for legal purposes

The three privacy commissioners have recommended that if Cadillac Fairview uses the technology again, it needs to put more effort into obtaining buyers’ consent before capturing and analyzing their footage

« This investigation shows how opaque certain business practices relating to personal information have become, » said Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton

« Organizations should not only be clear and straightforward when personal customer information is collected, but they should also have appropriate controls over what their service providers are doing behind the scenes with that information »

In a press release, the commissioners said they « remain concerned » that Cadillac Fairview « has refused » their request to « undertake to ensure that express and meaningful consent of the buyers if it chose to redeploy the technology in the future »

In a statement sent to Global News via email, Cadillac Fairview confirmed that it accepted and implemented all of the investigation’s recommendations, except for those that speculate on hypothetical future uses of a technology similar

He added that the images collected from buyers referenced in the report « are not faces »

« These are sequences of numbers that the software uses to anonymously categorize the age range and gender of buyers in the camera view If the same buyer crosses the camera view again, a new string of numbers would be generated

« We would like to reiterate that we take the concerns of our visitors seriously and are committed to protecting the privacy of our visitors »

Cybersecurity expert Karen Macdonald said any photo is considered identifiable information and can identify people using that image

“You can do a reverse image search, you can find people based on any other information that might go with it,” she said “It could be an email address, anything type of location data from a phone « 

Macdonald said most people don’t look at privacy policies like the ones CF said were posted on the doors of the malls in question because they are hard to read

« The average person who just goes to a mall to shop probably hasn’t read this privacy policy and has no idea their photo is being taken »

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News from the World – CA – Cadillac Fairview Secretly Collects Images of 5 Million Buyers Across Canada: Privacy Commissioners


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