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Privacy investigation finds 5 million shoppers' images collected at malls across Canada – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Without customers’ knowledge, more than five million images of Canadian shoppers’ were collected through facial recognition software used by Cadillac Fairview, a parent company of malls across the country, according to an investigation by privacy officials.

The federal privacy commissioner reported Thursday that Cadillac Fairview contravened federal and provincial privacy laws by embedding cameras inside digital information kiosks at 12 shopping malls across Canada, and captured users’ images without their consent.

The facial recognition software installed in Cadillac Fairview’s “wayfinding” directories was called “Anonymous Video Analytics (AVA) and through cameras installed behind protective glass, was used in Canadian malls for a brief testing period in 2017 and then was in-use between May and July of 2018.

The software took temporary digital images of the faces of any individual within the field of view of the camera inside the directory and converted the images into biometric numerical representations of each face and used that information to compile demographic information about mall visitors.

According to the report, the technology was used in directories at the following locations:

  • CF Market Mall in Alberta
  • CF Chinook Centre in Alberta
  • CF Richmond Centre in British Columbia
  • CF Pacific Centre in British Columbia
  • CF Polo Park in Manitoba
  • CF Toronto Eaton Centre in Ontario
  • CF Sherway Gardens in Ontario
  • CF Lime Ridge in Ontario
  • CF Fairview Mall in Ontario
  • CF Markville Mall in Ontario
  • CF Galeries d’Anjou in Quebec
  • CF Carrefour Laval in Quebec

According to a statement from Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien, the company said the goal of its cameras was to “analyze the age and gender of shoppers and not to identify individuals.”

The corporation said that it did not collect personal information because the images were briefly looked at and then deleted, however the information generated from the images was being stored by a third-party contractor called Mappedin, which Cadillac Fairview said it was unaware of.

“When asked the purpose for such collection, Mappedin was unable to provide a response, indicating that the person responsible for programming the code no longer worked for the company,” reads the report.

Therrien notes in his report that Cadillac Fairview not being aware of Mappedin’s storage of the information “compounded the risk of potential use by unauthorized parties or, in the case of a data breach, by malicious actors.”

In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, Deputy Commissioner Brent Homan called it a “massive invasion of privacy” and not one that shoppers would have expected while at the mall. Homan said that one of the lessons Canadians should take away from this report is that facial recognition software is available for companies to use, and while they encourage entities to ask for consent before deploying it on the public, that’s not always the case. 

Cadillac Fairview—one of the largest owners and operators of retail and other properties in North America—“expressly disagreed” with the investigation’s findings, telling the commissioners that there were decals placed on shopping mall entry doors noting their privacy policy.

These stickers directed visitors to visit guest services to obtain a copy of the company’s privacy policy, but when the investigators asked a guest services employee at the Eaton location in Toronto, the employee was “confused by the request” and so Therrien found the stickers to be an “insufficient” measure.

“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 Therrien in a statement. “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.”

The investigation was launched in 2018, following several media reports about information kiosks in malls being equipped with unmarked cameras to monitor visitor demographics. Their examination in this case included visiting Cadillac Fairview’s Toronto headquarters to interview key personnel, viewing the AVA technology inside the wayfinding directories in action, and extracting records from the directories for forensic analysis.

The existence of the software came to light after a user posted an image to Reddit of a display screen at the CF Chinook Centre in Calgary showing coding language including “FaceEncoder” and “FaceAnalyzer.”

Commissioner Therrien’s office worked with Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton as well as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia Michael McEvoy on the investigation.

“Not only must organizations be clear and up front when customers’ personal information is being collected, they must also have proper controls in place to know what their service providers are doing behind the scenes with that information,” Clayton said in a statement.

The trio of commissioners have expressed concern that the company hasn’t accepted their request to commit to ensuring meaningful and express consent is obtained from shoppers in the future should it choose to redeploy similar technology in the future.

In a statement provided to CTV News, Cadillac Fairview notes that the issue has been resolved, the data deleted, and the cameras have been deactivated. As well, the facial recognition software is no longer in use, but the company says it will not commit to its approach to “hypothetical future uses of similar technology.”

“The five million representations referenced in the OPC report are not faces. These are sequences of numbers the software uses to anonymously categorize the age range and gender of shoppers in the camera’s view,” the company said. “We thank the Privacy Commissioner for the report and recommendations on how to further strengthen our privacy practices and agree that the privacy of our visitors must always be a top priority.” 

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Canadian actor Elliot Page shares he is transgender – CBC.ca

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Elliot Page, Halifax’s own Hollywood star, has shared that he is transgender.

The actor is known for his Oscar-nominated role in Juno, as well as Inception and most recently The Umbrella Academy

He addressed his social media followers on Tuesday with a lengthy post, in which he shared he is trans, and that he uses the pronouns he or they.

“I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey,” Page wrote.

“I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive.”

Page describes ‘fragile’ joy

Page said he has been inspired by many in the trans community, and thanked them for their courage, generosity and working to make the world a more inclusive and compassionate place. 

While Page said his joy is real, it is also “fragile.” Despite feeling profoundly happy and acknowledging his privilege, he is also scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the jokes and the violence.

He cites the Human Rights Campaign’s figure that nearly 40 trans people have been killed in the United States in 2020 alone, with the majority of those being trans women of colour. 

“Enough is enough. You aren’t being ‘cancelled,’ you are hurting people. I am one of those people and we won’t be silent in the face of your attacks,” Page wrote.

Outpouring of appreciation

The letter was met with an outpouring of appreciation on social media, with Canadian musicians Tegan and Sara tweeting that Page’s strength, bravery and activism is “truly special.”

The official Umbrella Academy and Netflix accounts also tweeted their support, saying they are “proud of our superhero,” in a nod to Page’s character Vanya on the popular show.

For years, Page has been one of the most visible queer actors in Hollywood since publicly coming out as gay in 2014 during an emotional speech at the Time to Thrive conference, an LGBTQ youth event.

He married New York dance teacher Emma Portner a few years ago, and the 2016 series Gaycation saw Page and Ian Daniel explore LGBTQ cultures around the world.

Page is also a passionate environmental activist, and made his directorial debut alongside Daniel with There’s Something in the Water, a documentary that screened at TIFF last year.

Inspired by a book of the same name by Dalhousie University professor Ingrid Waldron, the documentary takes on environmental racism — the way climate change disproportionately affects communities of colour — in Page’s home province of Nova Scotia.

Through this project, Page learned about the challenges people in Shelburne, N.S., had with contaminated wells. He pledged the money needed for a new community well in the south end of town, which the local council accepted in February.

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Trudeau touts 'historic' $100B stimulus plan, won't commit to boosting health transfers – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is touting the government’s plan to inject up to $100 billion into Canada’s post-pandemic economy, calling it a “historic and appropriate” spending plan.

On Monday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the fall economic statement, which included the three-year stimulus program.

During a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage Tuesday, Trudeau said that with vaccines on the horizon, the end to the pandemic crisis is in sight.

He called the $100 billion program, which represents three to four per cent of GDP, a “historic and appropriate” stimulus plan.

“This will be a significant investment to get our economy back on track. And it’s an investment that will make sure no one gets left behind,” he said.

Trudeau is set to meet with premiers on Dec. 10 to discuss health care transfers and the vaccine rollout.

Premiers have been calling for a $28 billion top-up to federal health transfers. Trudeau would not commit to any specific increase today.

Asked if the provinces and territories will be in line for a funding boost, Trudeau said he looks forward to talking with the premiers to assess their needs for the short term and post-pandemic.

“We’re going to continue to be there for Canadians and I look forward to that conversation with the premiers, to look at how we can ensure that we are supporting people right now and that our health care systems are sustainable into the future,” he said.

Monday’s economic statement outlined various emergency aid programs for Canadians and businesses, and projected a deficit of at least $381.6 billion for this fiscal year.

Trudeau said today that those supports will continue to flow next year as things gradually return to normal.

“Even as vaccines begin to arrive, we know that we have to reach a significant percentage of the population before we can start releasing and reducing measures across the country, so it’s going to be a long winter,” he said in an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current.

“We’re going to have to continue to do the things that will keep us safe, but that’s why the economic anxiety that people are feeling is something that we’re there to counter.”

Trudeau said the government has worked to ease that anxiety by providing supports such as rent and wage subsidies, which will continue to “make it a little bit easier.” 

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Alberta’s hospital system is under “significant strain” and is adding intensive care beds as it faces an increase in COVID-19 cases, a medical director for the Edmonton area says.

Health officials reported 1,733 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, a record high that brought the number of active cases in the province to 16,454. The province also saw record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 453 people in hospital, including 96 in ICU.

Dr. David Zygun, of Alberta Health Services, said Monday that the province had planned for the increased demand and was now “executing those plans as the demand increases.”

The province has 173 general adult ICU beds and has plans to expand up to 425 ICU beds, Zygun said at a COVID-19 briefing.

“Over the last week in Edmonton, we’ve added an additional 20 beds,” he said. “Over the weekend in Calgary, we have another 10 beds.”

Hospitals are also cohorting patients and making use of decomissioned and unused spaces as health services works to add beds to help with the COVID-19 response.

“Obviously we hope that they won’t be needed but we are working not only to supply them but also to staff them,” Zygun said.

Alberta’s leaders have faced criticism from some in the medical community who say that public health measures imposed by the province aren’t strong enough to slow the spread of the novel virus.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 10:20 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 379,846 with 66,364 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,137.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday that the province reported 1,707 new cases of COVID-19, with 727 in Toronto and 373 in Peel Region.

In British Columbia, the province announced the highest number of COVID-19 deaths for a three-day period as it recorded 46 fatalities over the weekend.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic, saying “we all feel your loss and mourn with you.”

“These people have faces, have names, have stories. This tragedy is all of our tragedy,” Henry said. “If you are thinking it may be OK to bend the rules, please remember this virus takes lives.”

As of Monday, a statement from Henry and Dix said there were 316 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 75 in intensive care.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Monday it’s too early to say whether COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened in time to allow families to gather for the holidays. Moe said residents can expect to see high COVID-19 case numbers for the next few weeks, as officials wait to see if the latest public health measures have been effective.

The province reported 325 new infections on Monday and said there are 123 people in hospital, 23 of whom are receiving intensive care.

In Manitoba, health officials reported 343 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 11 additional deaths. The province, which has been dealing with a surge in cases, said 342 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 43 in intensive care units.

LISTEN | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins host Matt Galloway to talk about COVID-19, vaccines and the cost of fighting the pandemic:

The Current13:17Justin Trudeau on the cost of fighting the pandemic

After yesterday’s fiscal update, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins Matt Galloway to discuss the cost of fighting COVID-19, and how his government plans to roll out the vaccines that could finally subdue the pandemic. 13:17

Quebec reported 1,333 new COVID-19 infections and 23 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus on Monday.

The province’s Health Department said there are 693 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 28 more than the previous day. Ninety-four people were in intensive care, an increase of two.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, New Brunswick reported six new cases and Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.

Across the North, there were four new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut on Monday, while one new case was reported in Yukon. A mask mandate for indoor public spaces goes into effect in Yukon on Tuesday. 

There were no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories, which has seen 15 cases to date.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 63.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 40.6 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam reported two more coronavirus cases on Tuesday linked to a rare domestic infection in its commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City, while the government urged public vigilance and tighter enforcement of health measures.

The Southeast Asian nation is back on high alert after confirming on Monday the country’s first community infection in 89 days, prompting the closure of several places in the densely populated southern city.

The latest cases have been traced back to a flight attendant, who had been kept inside a quarantine facility for five days before being released to self-isolate at home.

“The flight attendant contracted the virus inside the quarantine area then spread it to others during his home-quarantine time,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a government statement.

“It’s the first ever time such a thing happened. The flight attendant seriously violated quarantine regulations.”

A woman wearing a face mask checks her smartphone while waiting on her scooter along a street in Hanoi on Tuesday, a day after Vietnam reported its first local transmission case of COVID-19 in nearly three months. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

With its usually strict quarantine and tracking measures, Vietnam has managed to quickly contain its coronavirus outbreaks, allowing it to resume its economic activities earlier than much of Asia.

Vietnam crushed its first wave of coronavirus infections in April and went nearly 100 days without local transmission until the virus re-emerged in the central tourist city of Danang in July and spread widely, before being contained in a few weeks.

Late on Tuesday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Vietnam would suspend all inbound commercial flights following the new outbreak. Flights for some foreign experts who do business in Vietnam had been operating throughout the pandemic.

In Europe, nonessential shops in Belgium were reopening Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions.

The government is fearful, however, that the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation’s most popular shopping centres and streets. Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.

Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic. Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.

A shopkeeper wearing a protective mask adjusts a display before the reopening of the shops qualified as non-essential in a shopping mall in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Under the new rules, shopping has to be done alone or with a minor or a dependant person. Time in a shop is limited to half an hour. Restaurants and bars remain closed.

France, meanwhile, recorded 4,005 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, the smallest rise since August, even as hospitalizations remained high.

In the Americas, the United States entered the final month of the year hoping that promising vaccine candidates will soon be approved to halt the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus after 4.2 million new cases were reported in November.

The new COVID-19 cases were more than double the previous monthly record set in October, as large numbers of Americans still refuse to wear masks and continue to gather in holiday crowds, against the recommendation of experts.

In an aerial view from a drone, cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium for COVID-19 testing on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

With outgoing President Donald Trump’s coronavirus strategy relying heavily on a vaccine, a Food and Drug Administration panel of outside advisers will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to recommend the FDA authorize emergency use of a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc.

A second candidate from Moderna Inc. could follow a week later, officials have said, raising hopes that Americans could start receiving inoculations before the end of the year, although widespread vaccinations could take months.

California’s governor, meanwhile, said he may renew a stay-at-home order in coming days, while families of 15 public school students sued the state, saying it has failed to provide equal education to poor and minority children during the pandemic.

In the Middle East, Lebanon’s economy faces an “arduous and prolonged depression,” with real GPD projected to plunge by nearly 20 per cent because its politicians refuse to implement reforms that would speed up the country’s recovery, the World Bank said Tuesday.

It said Lebanon should quickly form a reform-minded government to urgently carry out changes. The crash of the local currency has already led to triple-digit inflation. The dire projections by the World Bank, including a 19.2 per cent drop in gross domestic product this year alone, come as Lebanon suffers its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, posing a threat to the country’s stability.

The crisis began a year ago and worsened with the spread of coronavirus and the massive blast at Beirut’s port, which destroyed the facility, killed more than 200 people and caused widespread destruction.

Iran remained the hardest hit country in the region, with more than 975,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 and more than 48,600 deaths.

In Africa, deaths from malaria due to disruptions during the pandemic to services designed to tackle the mosquito-borne disease will far exceed those from COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization warned. South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 790,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 and more than 21,500 deaths.

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