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Ontario privacy commissioner looking into UWaterloo vending machines after complaints

Ontario’s privacy commissioner is looking into a southwestern university’s installation of more than two dozen vending machines equipped with facial analysis technology.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario says it received two complaints about the matter at the University of Waterloo and is examining the circumstances of what took place.

It says it cannot provide additional details but is encouraging all public institutions using or contemplating the machines to ensure that they are complying with Ontario’s privacy laws.

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The University of Waterloo says it began looking into student concerns about the 29 machines after someone posted a photo online of one of them displaying an error message apparently related to a facial technology program.

The university says it was unaware the machines, which were placed across campus recently, had such technology installed and has unplugged them ahead of their planned removal.

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The machine operator, Adaria Vending Services, did not immediately respond to a request for comment but recently told MathNews, the student publication that first reported the issue, that the machines come with motion sensors that know when to activate screens for purchases.

The software developer of the technology involved, Invenda, says the machines use people detection and facial analysis – not facial recognition – technology, and do not collect, manage, retain, or process any personally identifiable information.

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