What happens in Vegas is digitized

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Thane Burnett, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:51 PM ET

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas in ways you can hardly imagine.

As you drive into many U.S. casinos, your car plate has been recorded. Your face could also be imprinted on facial recognition technology.

It's how those gambling houses keep track of crimes and spot big spenders.

Now when you walk into many Canadian casinos, the same type of technology looks you over.

But unless you've signed up for a self-exclusion program — a way for gamblers to take a break from gaming — your data is never saved.

"In the U.S., they capture everyone — not so in Canada," says James Moore, vice-president of iView Systems, an incident reporting and risk management firm in Oakville, Ont., that supplies facial recognition technology to casinos, private companies and secure sites globally.

Of any technology that touches on privacy, second to DNA, facial recognition is a science people recognize the most but know the least about. Clouded by an American impression, many wrongly believe it's picture perfect.

Online, I asked several image search engines to find a match to my photo byline. Among the headshots returned belonged to a female U.S. ambassador.

Even in controlled real-world environments, lighting and shadows may be enough to make facial recognition misbehave.

Other Canadians may also believe it's present everywhere in this country — the kind of reach that one day may allow the American Nielsen TV rating company to use facial recognition in home-screens to tell what commercials you're watching.

In Canada, the experience is less, well, in your face.

Not that your image is not kept by Passport Canada, financial institutions and inside many large Canadian companies.

But Canadian lawyer and privacy expert Tim Banks points out: "In Canada, we recognize that you can be in public and still have the right to your privacy."

Over the past year, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has received about 90 requests for information relating to surveillance in public places.

"Certainly, given the widespread use of surveillance cameras, and the ever-expanding potential of digital analysis tools, such as facial recognition to identify individuals, our office is very concerned about the potential for surveillance to detract from individuals' right to privacy," says privacy commissioner spokesman Scott Hutchinson. "We are actively monitoring technology as it is developed to ensure that we understand what is possible and how it is being used."

In the wider sense, Canadians are in front of cameras more and more. Even as we don't bother to ask about our rights.

Andrew Clement, a professor of information studies at the University of Toronto, has had a bet with students for two years: Find a private sector client with proper signage needed to use a camera — including where customers go to find out what the data is used for — and they would earn $100.

That, he believes, should be easier money than that trip to Vegas.

"No one has claimed the reward yet," Clement points out, "and I've expanded the scope to include anyone, anywhere in Canada."

 


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