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Retailers use of facial recognition technology raises concerns


Consumers and privacy experts are raising concerns about the extent of surveillance in some high-end retail stores and what is being done with the data being collected, according to a report by CTV News.

The CTV report references a recent Guardian report which notes that luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue, which recently opened its first Canadian store in Toronto, is using some of the world’s most aggressive security and customer surveillance.

The surveillance technology, which includes software able to recognize individual shoppers’ faces, poses a number of risks according to privacy expert Geoff White, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

“There have been reports of these companies trying to develop profiles using facial recognition software, and also other sources of data about the individual, to try and develop a better sense of who they are to better serve them products and to convert them into more profitable customers,” White told CTV.

Other forms of data information being gathering include when consumers access in-store Wi-Fi, or log in using social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.

“There’s an information exchange there, and it raises questions about what sharing is happening and with whom,” White said.

While this degree of information gathering might be expected when shopping online, White is concerned the average shopper might not realize the level of surveillance happening in the physical retail space.

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