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The retail industry has adopted various human and technological resources to combat shoplifting, also known as fraud prevention. Retailers' arsenals include security guards, human receipt checks (i.e. Costco stores), auto-lock wheels on shopping carts, RFID tags triggering alarms at store exits, and CCTV cameras. A recent addition to this lineup is Facial Recognition Technology.

Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is an artificial intelligence-based biometric system that employs high-quality surveillance cameras in stores to identify individuals by their unique facial features.

The use of FRT represents use of a surveillance technology that is highly invasive. FRT is controversial because of its impacts on privacy, and its gender, and racial bias. It is for that reason that legislators and policy makers in democracies around the globe have banned, or significantly restricted, uses of FRT.

In 2021, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia (OIPC) launched an investigation into the use of FRT by Canadian Tire stores in the province. This investigation aimed to determine if the use of the technology by the stores violated British Columbia's Personal Information Protection Act. On becoming aware of the investigation, the affected stores promptly dismantled their FRT systems. The report of the British Columbia OIPC found the use of FRT technology by the stores violated British Columbia's Personal Information Protection Act. In particular, the retailers failed to obtain obtain explicit, or any, consent prior to the collection of individual’s images and failed to notify individual customers that their images were being recorded, collected and used by the retail store for its own purposes.

Does the use of Facial Recognition Technology by private businesses breach Alberta’s privacy laws?

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