Toronto police considering facial recognition software to identify suspects

November 24, 2014 - 

The Toronto Police Service is considering facial recognition software as a tool that could significantly reduce the time it takes to identify suspects, according to a report by the CBC.

Already adopted by Calgary police and various law enforcement agencies in the United States, facial recognition software enables police officers to match crime scene images against a database containing thousands of mug shots.

But despite the popularity of the software in other regions, privacy advocates have criticized the technology for having possible implications for those citizens who aren’t suspects of a crime.

Calgary remains to be the first and only police department in Canada to fully adopt facial recognition software.

As previously reported, the Calgary Police Service began using NEC Corporation of America’s NeoFace Reveal facial recognition solution earlier this month.

NEC says that other police departments in the country have also shown interest in using the facial recognition software.

Calgary inspector Rosemary Hawkins said in a press conference last week that Calgary police will only use the technology to quickly identify criminals by searching through mug shots, and not to identify law-abiding citizens.

Soon after the Calgary police announced it would implement the technology, the privacy commissioner of Alberta initiated an investigation into how the police force plans to use, store and protect the data they collect.

In the past, former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian worked with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to develop a facial recognition system for casinos that did not violate public privacy laws.

Based on this experience, Cavoukian feels that it is possible for police departments to follow similar privacy guidelines when implementing the facial recognition software.

“If in Canada these systems are just being developed now, it’s an ideal time to ask these kind of questions and try to ensure that we can safeguard the privacy of law-abiding citizens, while identifying the potential terrorist,” Cavoukian told the CBC.

Elsewhere in Canada, Whistler Blackcomb resort recently adopted a new network of surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, according to a report by IT World Canada.

After a six-month search to find an adequate replacement for its aging video surveillance systems, Whistler Blackcomb chose Avigilon’s IP video system which is designed to work in concert with an access and intrusion detection system.

BMS Integrated Services helped the resort install the system, which includes about 125 cameras, with plans to install a total of 600 cameras.

The system is connected via gigabit fibre that already covers 95% of the resort’s 8,171 acres, with a wireless network serving as backup.

Whistler Blackcomb is investing about $950,000 over three years for the complete security system, including the video, which should help to cut down on its annual retail losses of $250,000.

Management will also be able to use the system’s video analytics to track credit card fraud, such as repeated refund claims, or chargebacks from those individuals who claim not to have visited the area.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.