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'I actually sent it to my son': Social media post about fake AI cameras in Winnipeg goes viral

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Surveillance cameras are all over the place these days. We're often watched when we shop, in parking lots, or approach people's homes.

But what if cameras powered by AI were used to monitor a Winnipeg intersection and automatically sent out tickets for infractions?

A post on social media alluded to exactly this, and it went viral. However, the post isn't real, but it fooled a lot of people.

According to a post on the satirical Facebook page, The City of Winnipeg Complaints Department, the city was going to set up new cameras at St. Mary's Road and Fermor Avenue.

The post said the cameras would be used to catch people who aren’t wearing seatbelts or are using cell phones.

"I actually sent it to my son, and then deleted it after because I thought, 'That can't be right,'" said Kim, who spoke with CTV News Winnipeg on Friday.

She was right to be suspicious. The site's author told CTV News Winnipeg that the page is meant to provide some comic relief.

"Some people know it to be a joke, and others that think that it's real definitely add to the comedic factor. It also shows the real truth about how easy it is to have 'fake news' spread so quickly and easily," they wrote to CTV News Winnipeg.

While the post and the idea are fake, cybersecurity and technology analyst Ritesh Kotack said the ability to identify if someone is holding a cell phone or if someone's wearing a seatbelt is logical and plausible.

"The technology is evolving and applications like this when it comes to public safety and traffic enforcement are definitely on the horizon," said Kotack.

However, he noted that just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done, adding he believes public safety needs to be balanced with an individual's privacy as well.

A spokesperson for the city said in an emailed statement that while some social media accounts appear to be associated with the city, they are actually parody accounts.

"While we can appreciate the frustration of anyone who is encountering this, social media platforms do allow these accounts to exist as long as they list themselves as a satire or parody account," the spokesperson said.

"This particular page does categorize itself as satire. In addition, any announcement or launch of a new initiative would be featured on the city's website. The city's website always remains a reliable source for information."

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