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Belmont Candy Machine has an Eye for Students

The new machine in McWhorter Hall, Seth Thorpe

Students on a break and looking for a snack in McWhorter Hall may have noticed a new addition among the row of vending machines. 

A yellow M&M machine but what they may not have noticed was a small camera built into the front, that at the University of Waterloo in Canada was removed for using facial-recognition software. 

“I don't know why an M&M machine would need facial recognition,” said Jesse Edge, a senior entrepreneurship major. 

The new vending machine, provided by Five Star Foods, has a small hole where a camera peers out. The camera originally used software that collected data that would be sent to a parent company for marketing purposes, said Invenda Services, the company that made the machine.  

While Belmont’s machine has a camera, the software at Belmont is currently disabled, said Keith Chapman director of auxiliary services, who did not know about the camera until the Vision informed him. 

The drilled hole in the machine, Seth Thorpe

When Chapman learned about the camera, he reached out to Invenda.  

He was told that the company and its machines “do not collect, manage, retain or process any personally identifiable information,” in an email sent by Invenda.  

 Nearly a month ago Chapman said the camera would be covered, however as of March 27 the camera was still uncovered.  

In other Invenda vending machines, the camera could track a person’s age, gender and learn if someone watches the machine’s video by location and time of day, according to Invenda. 

Phoebe Vandeman, a sophomore music business major, had never seen a vending machine with a camera in it and had no idea there was one on campus. 

“You're not expecting a camera to be here,” said Vandeman. “It just makes me feel like if I come back, I’m going to make sure I’m not doing anything weird in front of this M&M machine.”  

The vending machine company said its software does not use facial recognition, However, an error code reportedly appeared on a machine at the University of Waterloo with the phrase “Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognition.App.exe” according to an article from Imprint, the school’s news site. 

While Invenda states its technology is used for marketing, Nathan Adam, an associate professor of media production at Belmont, said there are potential issues with data collection. 

“I think it’s the same ethical dilemmas as we have online,” Adam said. “We don’t have a way to prove that these vending machines are different from what somebody’s getting in their phone.” 

The purpose of this technology in airports and iPhones makes sense to some but its purpose in vending machine is confusing, said Edge. 

“It just seems like a very intense step forward,” he said. “You don’t have a choice in the information that the M&M Machine takes from you, it’s a little jarring.”


This article was written by Seth Thorpe

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1 Comment

Zach Watkins
Zach Watkins
Mar 27

Great story!

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