Facial recognition technology is present in vending machines

The University of Waterloo said it will remove vending machines after a student discovered they used facial recognition technology.
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  • The University of Waterloo is expected to remove smart vending machines from its campus.
  • A student discovered an error code indicating that the devices were using facial recognition technology.
  • Adaria Vending Services said the technology does not capture or store customers' photos.

A Canadian university is expected to remove a series of vending machines from campus after a student spotted a sign indicating they were using facial recognition technology.

Smart vending machines at the University of Waterloo first caught attention this month when Reddit user SquidKid47 The image was shared by and the image allegedly showed an M&M branded vending machine with an error code reading “Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognition.App.exe – Application Error.”

The post sparked speculation from some netizens and brought it to the attention of a University of Waterloo student on a technology news site Ars Technica He is identified as River Stanley, a writer for the local student magazine Math News. Stanley investigated the smart vending machines, discovering that they were provided by Adaria Vending Services and manufactured by Invenda Group. Canadian publishing CTV News It was reported that Mars Company, which owns the M&M's chain, owns the vending machines.

In response to the Student Post report, Adaria Vending Services' Director of Technology Services told MathNEWS that “it is not possible to identify an individual person using the technology in machines.”

“What is most important to understand is that the machines do not capture or store any images or images, and an individual person cannot be identified using the technology in the machines,” the statement read. “The technology acts as a motion sensor that recognizes faces, so the machine knows when the purchasing interface is activated – and never captures or stores images of customers.”

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The devices are “fully compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation,” the statement said. The regulation is part of EU privacy legislation that sets out how companies collect citizens' data.

“At the University of Waterloo, Adaria manages last-mile fulfillment services – we handle restocking and logistics for snack vending machines. Adaria does not collect any data about its users and does not have any access to identify users of these M&M vending machines,” the statement said.

Invenda Group told MathNews that the technology does not store information on “permanent memory media” and that the devices are GDPR compliant.

“It is not involved in storing, communicating or transmitting any images or personally identifiable information,” the Invenda Group statement said. “The software performs local processing of digital image maps derived from the USB optical sensor in real time, without storing this data on permanent memory media or transferring it over the Internet to the cloud.”

MathNEWS reported that Invenda Group's FAQ says that “only definitive data is collected, i.e. the presence of the person, estimated age, and estimated gender, without any association with an individual.”

A representative from the University of Waterloo (pictured) said the vending machines would be removed.
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Amid this speculation, the University of Waterloo told CTV News that the school intends to remove the machines from campus.

“The university has requested that these devices be removed from campus as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have requested that the program be disabled,” Rebecca Elming, a University of Waterloo representative, told the site.

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Representatives for the University of Waterloo, Invenda Group, Adaria Vending Services and Mars did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment sent over the weekend before publication.

Facial recognition technology on college campuses is an ongoing point of tension for students and faculty, with examples emerging globally. In May 2018, a school in China began monitoring students in classrooms using facial recognition technology that is scanned every 30 seconds. Two years later, a woman on TikTok claimed she failed a test after an AI system proctoring the test accused her of cheating.

Tensions rose in March 2020 when students at dozens of US universities protested facial recognition technology on campus, The Guardian mentioned.

“Education should be a safe place, but this technology is hurting the most vulnerable people in society,” said one student at DePaul University.

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