A set of smart vending machines at the University of Waterloo is expected to be removed from campus after students raised privacy concerns about their software.

The machines have M&M artwork on them and sell chocolate and other candy. They are located throughout campus, including in the Modern Languages building and Hagey Hall.

Earlier this month, a student noticed an error message on one of the machines in the Modern Languages building. It appeared to indicate there was a problem with a facial recognition application.

“We wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the application error. There’s no warning here,” said River Stanley, a fourth-year student, who investigated the machines for an article in the university publication, mathNEWS.

  • jeffhykin@lemm.ee
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    5 months ago

    It gets worse :/

    I looked up the brand (Invenda). Their PDF includes “using AI”, “measuring foot traffic”, and gathering “gender/age/etc” e.g. facial recognition to estimate a persons age and gender

    And in terms of “stored locally” this is straight from their website

    The machine comes with a “brain” – Invenda OS – and is connected to the Invenda Cloud, which allows you to manage it remotely and gather valuable environmental, consumer and transactional data. The device can be branded according to your requirements to further enhance your brand presence.

    The marketing also so fricken backwards that it reads like satire:

    For a consumer, there’s no greater comfort than shopping pressure-free. Invenda Wallet allows consumers to browse, select and pay for products leisurely and privately 🤦‍♂️

    • neutron@thelemmy.club
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      5 months ago

      I’m dreading for the day they introduce dynamic pricing based on who’s buying and refuses to sell without a full face scan.

    • ipkpjersi
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      5 months ago

      They have to make it sound like it’s private and secure, but it really isn’t. It’s sad how dystopian our future is becoming.

      • octopus_ink
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        5 months ago

        I keep telling my zoomer son he needs to read 1984. Not to live his life in fear of it, but to help his awareness of it, and provide an example of what that sort of societal control can look like. It’s probably the one thing I nag him about. 5 years later he still hasn’t read it. lol

        I haven’t read it in decades, but I still feel it’s hard to miss certain parallels with modern reality when you have.

        • InputZero
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          5 months ago

          A good book to pair with 1984 is A Brave New World. They both tackle forms of control but from two different approaches. In A Brave New World there’s no need for thought police. Every person is designed and crafted from conception to adulthood to never have a criminal thought.

          • octopus_ink
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            5 months ago

            That’s another good one! Thanks for reminding me of it! Kind of ironically I read most of that book while hiding from my job (that’s a story) in the bathroom for short periods of time in my early twenties.

        • kalpol@lemmy.world
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          5 months ago

          That plus Helen Nissenbaum. When you read 1984 and then start thinking about the concept of future contexts changing use of private data, you get real nervous.

        • otp@sh.itjust.works
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          5 months ago

          At the dawn of civilization? Lol

          Prostitutes, the world’s oldest profession, could be argued to be paying for convenience.

          People also probably paid for cooked meals pretty early in civilization.

      • Exocrinous@lemm.ee
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        5 months ago

        In the 18th century. That’s when capitalism really got rolling and when Adam Smith wrote his crap.

        Alternatively: 1493

      • namingthingsiseasy@programming.dev
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        There was a quaint old time, shortly after Google was founded, where people mused about privacy over the internet. It was forgotten about as the profits started rolling in and pretty much all other companies started following along. That was the time when we started transitioning into a period of massive data surveillance. Glad to see that the conversation is starting to pick up again in some areas, though it’s definitely being actively suppressed in many others.

      • NotJustForMe
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        5 months ago

        Laws and lawyers. You can’t go there and beat them up. That pretty much paved the way. Money is just a toy to them. So there is zero risk involved.

    • otp@sh.itjust.works
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      5 months ago

      Invenda Wallet allows consumers to browse, select and pay for products leisurely and privately

      I never would’ve questioned that using a vending machine with cash would be anything but private until reading that line.

      (Well, the article was first…but if it wasn’t for the article, that line is sketchy as all hell)

    • graymess@lemmy.world
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      5 months ago

      Vending machines used to get vandalized at my school. How much tech are they putting in these things now?

    • voxel@sopuli.xyz
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      5 months ago

      beuh, they obviously mean that the biometric data is stored and processed locally, not the data that results from that processing.
      i mean that’s still kinda creepy but you’re making it seem like they didn’t obviously admit to it in the original sentence.

    • MajorSauce@sh.itjust.works
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      5 months ago

      My guess is to associate which product is best selling to which demographic to better target them.

      So ingenious 🤮

      • CaptDust@sh.itjust.works
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        5 months ago

        I feel like it’d be tough to find a chip powerful enough to capture demographic attributes while also cheap enough to ship in vending machines? But admittedly I’ve little context on embedded systems and their capabilities

        • MajorSauce@sh.itjust.works
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          5 months ago

          While I have no idea how much a computerized vending machine costs, I found this article about a age/gender classifier that runs on a Raspberry Pi 4.

          Looking at the machine’s big touchscreen, I think this classifier would fit on the SBC or require a relatively small upgrade.

        • LinkOpensChest.wav@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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          5 months ago

          Would it be significantly more costly than some of the features vending machines already have, such as card readers? I think these things are pretty costly already, but the profit margin on snacks and soft drinks is extremely high, so I’d imagine they’d recoup their cost pretty quickly.

          • CaptDust@sh.itjust.works
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            5 months ago

            Well I thought so, but apparently we have good enough software that can run on a rasp pi now, so clearly the hardware requirements are much much lower than I understood.

            Geez, I remember needing to use cloud services just for simple OCR not that long ago…

        • AlecSadler@sh.itjust.works
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          5 months ago

          There’s a vending machine in a co-working space I use sometimes that has a full on fridge and oven, and when you order off the touchscreen…something happens inside and sometimes a hot cooked thing comes out. I have no idea how it works and have not used it myself, because it seems possibly kinda gross.

    • tsonfeir@lemm.ee
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      5 months ago

      Why the living hell would anyone agree to develop this? What douchbags are doing that job?

      • I Cast Fist@programming.dev
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        5 months ago

        There are people who actually believe that kind of dystopic bullshit, even in the tech sector. I remember a colleague a few years ago, told me he liked targeted ads because “it knew what I wanted”

        • tsonfeir@lemm.ee
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          5 months ago

          Oh boy, those people frustrate me so much. The ones who have a verbal conversation about a topic they’ve never talked about before, like owning a cat, or taking a cruise to Alaska, and then giggle gleefully when they are inundated with cat litter and cruise ship ads wherever they go on the internet.

          Some people just don’t care. And that’s actually fine. The ones who do care will try to look after the morons.

        • bjorney@lemmy.ca
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          5 months ago

          I don’t think software developers working in AI are “exploited labour just doing it to survive”

      • Exocrinous@lemm.ee
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        5 months ago

        What kind of amoral, selfish monster, would know full well that car emissions are exterminating life as we know it on earth, and still decide to drive a car?

        The same kind of monster who develops this technology.

        • tsonfeir@lemm.ee
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          I’m all down for using public transportation and electric cars when you pay to fix the infrastructure, have it run 24/7, or buy me an overpriced electric car that doesn’t destroy the earth as well with lithium mining and all the non-renewable resources used to manufacture it. Certainly better than gas.

          Although I’d argue the car manufacturer is the one you should be angry with, not the buyer who is limited by availability, a limited public transit system, and price.

          • Exocrinous@lemm.ee
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            5 months ago

            Ah, so there we go. You have a perfect set of excuses for your own actions and why they’re someone else’s fault, but you struggle to understand how someone could develop software like this. The answer is: the same way as you. Excuses.

              • Exocrinous@lemm.ee
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                5 months ago

                No.

                Aren’t you taking this all a bit personally? I’m just using your own experiences to explain a situation you find difficult to understand. The douchebags are the same as you. Hope that helps.

      • Aux@lemmy.world
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        5 months ago

        I’d do that. Privacy should not exist. Everything must be public and available to everyone. Every person should have a tracking implant and anyone should be able to access it.

          • Aux@lemmy.world
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            5 months ago

            Not /s. Privacy is a foreign concept for humans, invented a bit over a century ago. Privacy is a root cause of many social problems in our day and age.

            • otp@sh.itjust.works
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              5 months ago

              Every person should have a tracking implant and anyone should be able to access it.

              In that case, I would guess that you’re a man, and one who has never had a stalker.

            • I Cast Fist@programming.dev
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              5 months ago

              Privacy as a human right is, indeed, new. The concept and the desire for it is old. Doing things and not wanting to get caught is as old as walking forward. What, you think the idea of cheating a romantic partner is new? That every military in history and prehistory exchanged letters with one another, saying what they were doing? That every important and “important” person always exposed everything they did and thought to everyone?

              Also, keep in mind there’s a significant number of serious journalists that need privacy in order to do their job of exposing crimes. I can already see you replying “They wouldn’t need to do that if everything was public”. True, but that would also mean that tyrants and wannabe tyrants would have incredible ease in killing everyone they disliked.

              • Aux@lemmy.world
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                5 months ago

                Well, you said it yourself - you only need privacy to commit a crime or to cheat on someone. Privacy should NOT exist!

    • BearOfaTime@lemm.ee
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      5 months ago

      “local only”

      Even if it’s technically local-only, pretty easy for a tech to drive by and pull data it’s stored.

      Or when it gets filled.

    • NotJustForMe
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      5 months ago

      You know, when technology really got started, I had dreams about tech knowing me, doing things for me, acting in my best interest. Smile at the cashier, and my bill is paid, entering any public building, and I’m added to the queue, my documents already there… A vending machine would know me, holding back that last Snickers bar, because it knew that I would come by today…

      It could have been good. It could have been right. On another planet, with another species. :')

    • dan1101@lemm.ee
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      5 months ago

      Best case scenario the machine has some sort of standard software with facial recognition code, but no hardware in the machine. Would he interesting to know.

  • ikidd@lemmy.world
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    5 months ago

    A massive and punitive fine for anyone gathering biometric data without express permssion would be a great way to discourage other companies from bringing that shit around. A billion or two ought to do it.

    • Omega_Haxors
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      5 months ago

      Or do it like they do in China: if your company breaks the law you have two choices: donate it to the government or we take your CEO behind the shed for questioning.

    • Death_Equity@lemmy.world
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      Your face is not private, nor are your fingerprints. In public and in many private properties that are open to the public(e.g. stores) you have no expectation of privacy so you can be filmed within the law. You consent to facial recognition by passive agreement when you enter the public without your face covered.

      Facial recognition technology is everywhere and there is nothing that will be done to curb it’s use.

      Edit: To be clear, I do not support anyone or any entity using biometric data for any purpose except verification of identity for security purposes with intentional consent. Businesses or government using biometric data, or any data obtained without clear and willful consent, is unacceptable.

        • Rodeo@lemmy.ca
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          It’s not apathy, it’s an observation of the legal status of the situation.

          Legally, you have no reasonable expectations of privacy in a public space, and as such anyone is free to record you. I don’t think fingerprint data being collected from devices available to the public has been tried in court yet, but audio and video recordings certainly have been.

          It’s actually a good thing. Imagine if it was illegal for you to video cops.

          • queermunist she/her
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            Legality can change, that’s literally what we’re talking about. It’s legal now, it doesn’t have to be.

            Also just declare that cops don’t have a right to privacy. Easy.

            • okamiueru@lemmy.world
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              You are so right. I’m dumbfounded by how apathetic Americans are when it comes to politics. The idea of making the change you want to see, seems like a foreign concept. This will bring in a lot of downvotes, but I’d be happy to find some kind of online community that excludes Americans. And, I don’t mean by nationality, or even geography. Just this… acceptance of political depravity. In the US, you get the choice between “bat shit insane”. And, if don’t like that, you can vote Republican instead, which is orders of magnitude worse, with layers of vile shit. I’m tired. Most problems are so simple to solve. But the arguments are always presented between two things that don’t matter.

              Good luck. I’m gonna see if there is a lemmy community that actively blocks “American mentality”. Which is hilarious, because a lot of Americans express that lemmy is “extremely communist / anti capitalist” etc. Which is just what “common sense” looks like to Americans.

          • Death_Equity@lemmy.world
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            Most states do not have any laws which restrict how biometrics are used. So using your fingerprint, face, or iris to checkout at the store doesn’t have any protections that would prevent that biometric data from being sent somewhere else, including the police. A store could gather facial or even iris data from a camera and you would have no idea because they don’t have to tell you.

            Worse is that most people don’t see the problem with the digital panopticon because “they haven’t done anything wrong” and they are willing to give up their data for the idea of a theoretical safety.

          • Kilgore Trout@feddit.it
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            5 months ago

            Because the United States are the only country in the world.

            In Italy it is illegal to share recordings in public without the recorded people’s consent.

            “Cops” are public servants, as such it is always allowed to record and share.

      • Doug7070@lemmy.world
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        5 months ago

        There is a massive fundamental difference between having a person see your face in public, or even having a basic security camera record your face, and having a system recognize your biometric data and stalk you through every public environment with extreme precision.

        The general public should absolutely not accept the imposition of being expected to be followed through every public place by private corporate entities for undisclosed purposes. We can and should aggressively push government representatives to take strong regulatory action to outlaw this behavior and aggressively punish violations.

        Will making these efforts actually change matters? Maybe, maybe not. Will throwing your hands up and just assuming it’s impossible to change anything and that we should all just lay down and accept it as fact lead to the worst possible outcome? Absolutely.

        • Death_Equity@lemmy.world
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          5 months ago

          Using those biometrics to access anything without a warrant is legal and not protected by the 4th or 5th amendments.

      • UNWILLING_PARTICIPANT@sh.itjust.works
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        5 months ago

        That’s where the laws come in. I don’t agree that recording and biometric information on people should be legally protected, unless you ask for permission first.

      • Gaia [She/Her]@lemmygrad.ml
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        So instead of changing the laws you would rather…just let it happen? Alternatively, you don’t have to obey the law. Enamel paint is very cheap and easy to apply to lenses. I think breaking the machines would curb their use, no?

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    5 months ago

    Yet another demonstration that the primary meaning of “smart” has come to be “unbelievably stupid.”