Canada: University Removes Vending Machines After Student Discovers They’re Spying on People

Student from the University of Waterloo showing where he thinks the camera is

No one should be surprised by this.

Why wouldn’t the vending machines be spying on you?

We live in a democracy, meaning that any abuse that is possible is destined to happen.

Tech Spot:

A hot potato: Collecting personal biometric data through facial recognition or other methods for advertising purposes has long been controversial. However, most people don’t expect a vending machine to gather this type of personally identifying information (PII). Surprisingly, someone discovered an M&M machine on a Canadian university campus doing just that without students’ knowledge nor consent.

The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, began removing its vending machines after discovering facial recognition technology on one of them. The machine’s operators and manufacturers deny collecting or selling biometric data, but a prior case in the country gives students reason for alarm.

Student and Redditor “SquidKid47” posted a photo of an error message on one of the college’s M&M machines showing that a program called “Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognition.App.exe” had crashed. A subsequent investigation by a campus newspaper sparked outrage among students, prompting the school to order the campus’s vending machines’ removal.

Vending machine manufacturer Invenda advertises analytic services that provide operators with data on purchasing habits based on estimated age and gender, indicating that the machines have biometric recognition systems. The university outlet suggests the company could send customer data to M&M’s parent company, Mars.

Believing the vending machines host small cameras, students began covering them with items like chewing gum and Post-it notes while demanding their removal. The school’s administration hasn’t offered a clear timeline regarding the removal and replacement of the machines.

An official investigation by privacy officials in 2020 found that, in 2017 and 2018, Cadillac Fairview used cameras hidden in kiosks to collect the images of over five million shoppers in malls across Canada without their knowledge or consent. While there is no direct connection between Cadillac Fairview and Invenda, recalling the incident sparked debate among Waterloo’s students on whether to take Invenda or Adaria at their word.

The spying data is valuable to corporations. And the government wants it.

They’re going to take the data by any means necessary, and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

This is a democracy.

You have no say in what the corporations and the government does to you.

They can do anything they want.

We’re all being spied on all the time, everywhere