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Lime Ridge Mall used cameras to collect data on shoppers without consent

If you’ve been to Lime Ridge Mall and passed by a digital information kiosk lately, then your image may have been used by the company that owns the shopping centre to collect data on your age and gender. 

Cadillac Fairview owns 12 different malls across Canada – including Hamilton’s Lime Ridge – and is one of the biggest commercial real estate companies in North America. 

It was reported in the Financial Post that they used facial recognition technology without customers’ permission to obtain about 5 million images at malls all over the country. 

“Small, inconspicuous cameras” were used at digital information kiosks said an investigation conducted by the federal, Alberta, and B.C. privacy commissioners. 

“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,” said Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien on Thursday.

“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.”

Cadillac Fairview said it was collecting data and not specifically identifying individuals. The images were deleted after they were analyzed but investigators found that the geometric and sensitive material was being stored on a third party database. 

The company said that they didn’t know the database existed, and one investigator said that was even more concerning because images could be used by unauthorized parties. 

Cadillac Fairview defended their actions by stating they had decals on the doors of their malls that showed their privacy policy. 

Information provided lead visitors to the information kiosk to see Cadillac Fairview’s full document of their privacy policy. When an investigator tried to see the document, the mall employee didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. 

Lime Ridge Mall is 1 of 12 locations nationwide with the small cameras in digital information kiosks. Other malls in Ontario include Toronto Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens, Fairview Mall, and Markville Mall. 

Lead image courtesy of Google Maps

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