Big Canadian retailer broke privacy laws with facial recognition technology


Canadian Tire’s use of facial recognition technology violated Canadian privacy laws, according to a new report from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC.

The investigation focused on four Canadian Tire stores in BC that use facial recognition technology to prevent shoplifting. The investigation found the stores didn’t adequately notify customers or obtain consent for the collection of personal information using the technology.

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“Even if the stores had obtained consent, which they failed to do, they were still required to
demonstrate a reasonable purpose for collection and use,” the report reads. “The investigation found that they did not do so.”

After being notified of the investigation in November 2021, the four Canadian Tire stores promptly removed the facial recognition systems, according to the report. After some back-and-forth with the stores and their third-party providers of facial technology providers, the commissioner was satisfied the databases were destroyed.

A Canadian Tire Companies spokesperson told Daily Hive that it’s now prohibited the use of facial recognition technology at all its stores.

“Customers can remain confident that regardless of where they shop across our group of companies, their privacy will be protected,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The privacy commissioner is calling on the BC government to regulate the sale and installation of surveillance technologies that capture biometric information, so stores can’t do it surreptitiously. The office also wants the government to add additional obligations for those who collect such personal information, including a requirement to notify the privacy commissioner.

Every human face is unique, and the report argues the proliferation of technologies that capture people’s faces in public spaces and compare them to a database represents a concerning risk to privacy and the right to anonymity.

The report adds that the collection of biometric data can be discriminatory, as seen in the case of a US man who was arrested because his biometric data was incorrectly matched to another man in another state. It also cites a case of Madison Square Garden banning members of a law firm involved in litigation with them. Finally, it adds that databases of biometric data are high-value targets for cybercrime.

Daily Hive has reached out to Canadian Tire for comment.


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