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Canadian provincial privacy commissioner chides major retailer for biometrics deployment

Recommends stronger policy for stores, regulation by government
Canadian provincial privacy commissioner chides major retailer for biometrics deployment

At least four British Columbia locations of iconic national retailer Canadian Tire failed to show a reasonable purpose for their deployment of facial recognition, in the opinion of Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy.

McEvoy investigated four out of 12 locations the retailer implemented facial recognition at to curb theft and increase staff safety. He found they did not obtain consent from customers to gather their data, but would have run afoul of the province’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) even if they had, according to a public announcement.

The systems collected face biometrics from customers between 2018 and 2021.

When the investigation of the four stores was announced, Canadian Tire discontinued its use of the system at all 12 and deleted customers’ data, according to the report.

The stores should establish “robust privacy management programs,” McEvoy recommends.

The Commissioner recommends the provincial government align its privacy protections with other jurisdictions by explicitly regulating “the sale or installation of technologies that capture biometric information” through the Security Services Act, and to create additional obligations such as notification to the privacy commissioner for organizations deploying biometrics, under PIPA.

“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,” says Commissioner McEvoy.

“I recognize retailers face a challenging environment, however they have to carefully consider the privacy rights of their customers before buying and installing new technologies that gather very sensitive personal information.”

McEvoy has, along with Canadian colleagues, previously called for tougher regulation of facial recognition and more enforcement powers.

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