A London bar is using facial recognition; what does that mean for Canada?
MONTREAL – It seems Big Brother is always watching – even if you’re in a bar in London, England.
The Underdog London is using facial recognition to stop patrons from skipping in line while waiting to be served their next pint – apparently, it's the first bar in the world to install artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
"We're very good at queuing in the U.K., but certainly not when we are getting a drink. Everyone wants to come, get served first,” said Sammy Forway, the bar’s owner.
“So, although our team's trained well, if they're turning around and serving, it's difficult for them to see exactly who's next. This technology has been helping them to be exact on who's at the bar and who's next in line to be served."
A screen behind the bar shows footage of everyone lining up, numbering them on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Those who've been waiting first get a number above their head to say, ‘you're Number One in the queue,’” explained John Wyllie, managing director of DataSparQ, a data science company.
“Those who've been waiting for the least amount of time are at the back of the queue."
It’s a move that has privacy advocates on edge, saying it’s not too far from how similar technology is being used in Canada.
"Our concern is that this is trivializing what is really quite a dangerous surveillance technology. It's not solving a problem that desperately needs to be solved at all. There's no obvious need for it,” insisted Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch.
“And yet, people just going to have a drink are going to be biometrically analyzed, scanned, have their face up on a screen, it's just really quite intrusive stuff.”
Last year, Canada’s privacy commissioner launched a probe into the use of facial recognition in malls.
The investigation was sparked by reports that digital directories inside Cadillac Fairview malls were allegedly using unmarked cameras connected to facial recognition software.
“Most of the time, people are not aware that they are being documented, which is against any laws of privacy,” explained Steve Waterhouse, a cybersecurity specialist.
“Just like cellphone tracking, facial recognition tracking is something that is not too distant in the future.”
He argues there isn’t enough regulation on AI in Canada, and is calling on the federal government to establish proper limits and clearer guidelines for facial recognition technology.