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Facial biometrics deployment for residential access control in Canada concerns privacy advocates

Facial biometrics deployment for residential access control in Canada concerns privacy advocates

A Canadian real estate management firm has deployed biometric facial recognition to prevent unauthorized access of its buildings and track building entries, Reuters reports, and some rights advocates in the country are expressing concern.

The 1Valet system combines face biometrics on surveillance cameras, lighting and door locks on one platform that building managers can control from a single “smartphone-style” panel. A representative of the company says it is the first deployment of its kind in Canada.

Property managers operate an editable database, and the system logs door use to enable security incident investigations, which could be shared with authorities if necessary.

Privacy and Access Council of Canada President Sharon Polsky notes that privacy laws in the country are 30 years old, and calls them “not adequate.” She also says technologies like facial recognition “are completely unregulated.”

Commercial use of personal information including biometrics is regulated in Canada by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which was passed in 2000.

Three buildings in Ottawa are currently using the system, but it could be implemented in 12,000 housing units over the next three years. Residents are able to opt out of the facial recognition access control portion of the system in favor of a PIN, but the images of all people coming and going are still captured and retained.

Canadian Civil Liberties Association Privacy Director Brenda McPhail claims that “these kinds of ‘smart technologies’ are increasingly being embedded in building infrastructure,” and warns that their use entails giving up privacy and anonymity. She also expresses concern about the lack of consent for delivery people and others, and implies that the system may create and store biometric templates of all people captured on camera.

Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish makes note that the system captures “the personal information of law-abiding individuals going about their everyday activities,” and warned against the routine warrantless sharing of facial biometric data with law enforcement.

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