Vending Machine Error Exposed Secret Face Recognition Technology in Just 10 Words


The University of Waterloo in Canada is currently facing backlash from students after it was revealed that M&M-branded smart vending machines on campus were secretly collecting facial recognition data without their consent. This controversy arose when a student using the alias SquidKid47 posted an image on Reddit showing a vending machine error message related to a facial recognition application that no one anticipated during the vending machine process. The revelation prompted a fourth-year student named River Stanley to investigate further and write a report for a university publication called MathNEWS, raising alarms about the privacy implications of this technology.

Stanley’s report highlighted the concerns of collecting sensitive facial recognition data without consent, drawing parallels to a past investigation in which a shopping mall operator in Canada used similar technology on unsuspecting patrons. The report called for the university to remove the facial recognition vending machines from campus, sparking a response from a university spokesperson confirming that the school had disabled the software and was working on removing the machines. However, students expressed their distrust in the university administration, with some taking matters into their own hands by covering the vending machine cameras while waiting for a resolution. The spokesperson assured that the removal would happen as soon as possible but declined to provide a specific timeline or address whether other areas on campus were collecting similar data.

In response to the controversy, the companies responsible for the vending machines, Adaria and Invenda, claimed that the technology was GDPR-compliant and did not store or identify individual customers through facial recognition. They reassured students that their data privacy was protected, as the vending machines only used facial detection as a motion sensor to activate the purchasing interface. Despite these assurances, students remained uneasy about the surveillance technology on campus and questioned the extent of where such data collection could be happening. The situation highlights the importance of transparency and consent in the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces.

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