Canon smile recognition system criticised as intrusive, manipulative

Occurred: June 2021

The introduction of a 'smile recognition' system by Japanese technology company Canon raised complaints of inappropriate surveillance and the manipulation of employee emotions.

Canon introduced Ai-powered cameras is using to ensure that only happy employees were permitted to enter or book conference rooms in its corporate offices in China. The technology is part of an “intelligent IT solution” for corporate offices that includes 5 different functional modules, one of which is "smiley face access control".

Canon defended the technology, saying that it was  designed to promote a positive atmosphere, and that once people got used to smiling in the office, they would continue to do so, creating a positive and lively atmosphere.

However, some workers expressed concerns about the intrusiveness of the technology, and felt Canon was manipulating their emotions.

The incident raised concerns about the increasingly pervasive and intrusive nature of workplace technology in China and elsewhere, as well as about the use of AI to manipulate people's emotions. 

Operator: Canon
Developer: Canon
Country: China
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Encourage workplace productivity
Technology: Computer vision; Smile recognition
Issue: Surveillance

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Published: October 2021