Canadian government investigating mall's use of biometric surveillance

Last week, it was revealed by a sharp-eyed Redditor that the information kiosks at a mall in Calgary, Canada, were full of software designed to track the age and sex of anyone that stopped to use it. Pretty damn greasy. Greasier still, the management company that operates the mall, Cadillac Fairview admitted that the software was in use at a number of its other properties. The greasiest bit out of all of it? They shrugged off privacy concerns raised by a number of news outlets as there’s nothing in Alberta’s laws that keeps them from doing it without permission, or warning mall patrons that it’s being done.

Well, that was last week.

From The CBC:

The privacy commissioners of Alberta and Canada are launching investigations into the use of facial recognition technology, without the public's consent, in at least two malls in Calgary.

A notice posted Friday to the Alberta privacy commissioner website says the investigation will look to determine, "what types of personal information are being collected, whether consent for collection or notice of collection is required or would be recommended, for what purposes personal information is collected, whether the data is being shared with other businesses, law enforcement or third parties, and what safeguards or security measures are in place to protect personal information."

It’s said that Alberta’s privacy commissioner opened the investigation, based on the level of public interest surrounding the issue of whether or not it’s cool for property owners to collect biometric information without a visitor’s knowledge or consent. Read the rest

Calgary malls caught secretly using facial recognition to characterise shoppers' age and gender

Calgary's Chinook Centre and Market Mall -- operated by Cadillac Fairview -- have been caught running background software that analysed the footage from the CCTVs in the malls' electronic directories to guess at the age and gender of visitors, without consent or notification. Read the rest

Mystery man found dead in wall of women's washroom

The Core Shopping Center caters to the needs of Calgary, Canada's downtown office workers. Wandering its multiple floors over a series of city blocks, you'll find a mid-ranged food court, travel agencies, cell phone stores and stores flogging business attire – pretty standard stuff. Its white walls and polished floors give it an institutional feel that shouts "shop and bugger off." It's a mall! You could mistake it for any number of other shopping centers around North America, except for one thing: the Core has, or rather, had, a dead fella in the wall of one of its women's washrooms.

I spend six months of the year in and around Calgary and worked for a number of years managing mall cops. Lemme set the scene.

Instead of forcing maintenance personnel to rip a hole in a wall to access plumbing every time that there's a problem, a lot of mall bathrooms are designed to include small, lockable doors that provide access to the pipes. The wall that this door is baked into is often referred to as a "pony wall." Pony walls aren't designed for load bearing. They're there, primarily, to hide plumbing, HVAC and electrical conduits from folks using the building. It looks nice. In between a pony wall and the wall that lies beyond it, there's usually a small chunk of space – maybe one and a half feet feet deep – to allow workers to get parts of themselves and their tools into to make repairs. The access hatch for a pony wall can be locked and unlocked from the outside. Read the rest

Calgary airport regrets converting disabled parking spaces into "Lexus only" parking spaces

The Calgary airport authority has apologised for a botched marketing campaign in which it sold Lexus on the idea of designating some of its parking places as "Lexus only" and then, unbeknownst to the car company, used disabled parking spots for the purpose (presumably, they were luxuriously spacious). Read the rest

A climbable personal library in an old elevator shaft

Studio North was commissioned to refit an old elevator shaft in a converted warehouse loft in Calgary; they built a tall, narrow library with climbable shelves whose hand- and foot-holds retract into the shelving. Read the rest

Pseudoscientific terror ended fluoridation in Calgary, now kids' teeth are rotting

Five years ago, the city of Calgary gave in to a scientifically illiterate campaign against fluoride in its water supply; five years later, Calgary's grade two children each have an average of 3.8 extra cavities. Read the rest

Lego store detains 11 year old customer, accuses his father of being an unfit parent

Doug Dunlop's 11 year old, Lego-obsessed son is a frequent customer at the Lego store in Calgary's Chinook Mall, where he spends his odd-job savings on new materials -- until this week, when the Lego store management had the mall's security take him into custody. Read the rest