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Cadillac Fairview collected images of 5-million shoppers without their consent, investigation finds

Last Updated Oct 29, 2020 at 1:53 pm EST

One of Canada’s most prominent property management companies, Cadillac Fairview embedded cameras inside their digital information kiosks at 12 shopping malls across Canada and used facial recognition technology without their customers’ knowledge or consent.

The federal, Alberta and BC Privacy Commissioners released details of its investigation on Thursday.

According to a release, Cadillac Fairview said it wanted to analyze the age and gender of shoppers and not to identify individuals.

Cadillac Fairview also claims that shoppers were made aware of the activity via decals it had placed on shopping mall entry doors that referred to their privacy policy

The Commissioners eventually determined that was insufficient.

“Cadillac Fairview also asserted that it was not collecting personal information, since the images taken by camera were briefly analyzed then deleted,” the release reads.

“However, the Commissioners found that Cadillac Fairview did collect personal information, and contravened privacy laws by failing to obtain meaningful consent as they collected the 5 million images with small, inconspicuous cameras.”

The Commissioners also say that its investigation revealed that CF used video analytics to collect sensitive information from customers.

The investigation found the technology was used at 12 malls in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

“Shoppers had no reason to expect their image was being collected by an inconspicuous camera, or that it would be used, with facial recognition technology, for analysis,” Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, said.

“The lack of meaningful consent was particularly concerning given the sensitivity of biometric data, which is a unique and permanent characteristic of our body and a key to our identity.”

The investigation was launched following media reports that raised questions about Toronto-based Cadillac Fairview’s practices.

As a direct result of the Commissioners findings, the company removed the cameras from its digital directory kiosks and say that Cadillac Fairview has no current plans to reinstall or re-use the technology.

“While the focus of this report is of a technology that was disabled and removed more than two years ago, we want to reiterate that we take the concerns of our visitors seriously and are committed to protecting our visitors’ privacy,” Cadillac Fairview said in a statement issued Thursday.

“As we continue to enhance the in-mall experience and better connect with our digitally engaged customers, we are, and will always be, deeply committed to privacy and responsible data usage.”

“We thank the Privacy Commissioner for the report and recommendations on how to further strengthen our privacy practices and agree that the privacy of our visitors must always be a top priority,” CF added.

Cadillac Fairview has also deleted all information associated with the video analytics technology, adding that it will not retain or use such data for any other purpose.

Cadillac Fairview owns and operates several malls across the GTA, including Etobicoke’s Sherway Gardens, Toronto’s Eaton Centre, CF Fairview Mall, and CF Shops at Don Mills.

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