Canada's privacy commissioner investigating controversial facial recognition technology used by Durham police

Marco Green
February 25, 2020

Hoan Ton-That, the founder of Clearview AI, tests the company's app in NY on January 10, 2020.

The Alberta commissioner's office strongly encouraged EPS to submit a privacy review to ensure any future facial recognition program complies with privacy law.

Alberta's privacy commissioner is taking part in a national investigation of facial recognition technology supplied by USA firm Clearview AI.

It added that Clearview AI has said it was also providing services to financial institutions.

As well, Halton Regional Police confirmed to CTV News Toronto that its officers began using a free trial of the facial recognition tool in October 2019.

Corporate giants such as Facebook, Google and YouTube have all recently filed cease and desist lawsuits against Clearview AI, saying that this motherlode of facial images was amassed without the consent of the social-media companies or their users.

Parliamentarians in Ottawa say they may soon join in on attempting to rein in this technology.

"Clearview is operating within a judicial and a legislative vacuum", said NDP MP Charlie Angus.

Privateness regulators in each individual province and territory have also agreed to perform collaboratively "to acquire advice for businesses - which include legislation enforcement - on the use of biometric technological know-how, such as facial recognition", the statement mentioned.

A number of police forces in Ontario have publicly acknowledged they've used Clearview's companies, together with the police power in Toronto, Canada's most populous metropolis.

In a statement to CBC News, Tor Ekeland, attorney for the company said, "Clearview only accesses publicly available data from the public internet". Those three provinces have their own privacy laws.

Clearview AI did not respond to a request for comment.

"We are not just using this technology or using facial recognition to go out and look at the general open source information that's out there", Driechel said Wednesday. They have since halted its usage, but are one of a handful of police services in Canada known to have tested the technology.

It was revealed earlier this week that Hamilton police had been trying out company software but have been told to stop.

Edmonton police plan to use the technology "in response to existing criminal investigations, using a database of pictures previously obtained for a lawful goal", such as mug shots, EPS spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said in a written statement.

Despite this position, he is sitting out the joint investigation announced Friday, pointing out that Ontario's relatively weak laws don't allow him to put questions to corporations. Beamish said in an e-mail.

"We were not aware that the Toronto Police Service was using Clearview AI technology until contacted by them on February 5".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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