M&M vending machines to be removed from campus


Last updated Fri. Feb 23, 11:24 a.m.

In response to student complaints about the apparent usage of facial recognition technology in the new M&M machines on campus, UW has requested the machines to be removed “as soon as possible.”

“We thank our students for bringing this matter to our attention,” UW’s statement to Imprint read, adding that they have requested the software be disabled in the meantime. 

In a statement to Imprint, Invenda, the manufacturer of the machine, clarified that the technology in the machine is people detection and facial analysis, and that it does not collect user data or photos. “People detection solely identifies the presence of individuals, whereas facial recognition goes further to discern and specify individual persons,” they said. Invenda added that the machine can only detect “if an anonymous individual faces the device, for what duration,” and that it “approximates basic demographic attributes unidentifiably.”

The statement also clarified that the data collected is only used to assess foot traffic at the machine and transactional conversion rates. “These systems adhere rigorously to GDPR regulations and refrain expressly from managing, retaining, or processing any personally identifiable information,” Invenda said. GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulations, is a law put in place by the European Union (E.U.) which applies to any company that sells products or services in the E.U., including Invenda. The law includes rules like purpose limitation, which stipulates that companies can only use collected data for the purposes stated.

Students have taken to the UW subreddit to complain, with one user u/SquidKid47, posting an image of an “Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognitionApp.exe Application Error” error message on the screen of a machine in MC on Feb. 10. Others have posted images of the supposed camera in the machine, which students have taken to covering with various objects including stickers and post-its.

While Food Services is responsible for vending machines on campus, a university spokesperson said they were unaware that the M&M machines included this technology.