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Canadian Privacy Commissioners investigate Clearview AI, develop guidance for police use of biometrics

Canadian Privacy Commissioners investigate Clearview AI, develop guidance for police use of biometrics

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner and those of the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec have announced the launch of a joint investigation into whether the actions of Clearview AI violate federal or provincial data protection statutes.

The privacy protection authorities will consider Clearview’s practices in relation to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) as well as provincial legislation. The announcement notes that media reports have suggested the company is collecting personal information without consent, and that in addition to law enforcement, the company claims to provide services to financial institutions.

Perhaps even more interestingly, the announcement says that privacy regulators from each of the country’s provinces and territories have agreed to collaborate on guidance for organizations including law enforcement on the use of facial recognition and other biometric technology.

One local force plans deployment as others pause Clearview use

Police in Edmonton, Alberta, are in negotiations with a vendor of facial biometrics, and plan to roll out the technology later this year, according to the Edmonton Journal, but will not use the technology with social media, presumably eliminating Clearview from contention.

Edmonton Police Informatics Division Superintendent Warren Driechel says the force began considering adopting the technology a couple of years ago, and ramped up its efforts in recent months. The plan is to implement technology to allow police to compare still and video images to an existing database of official mugshot records, lawfully obtained under the Identification of Criminals Act.

The increase in video evidence has become “almost overwhelming” for the force to deal with manually, he says.

Driechel emphasizes that human reviewers trained in facial recognition will confirm all matches to mitigate against any bias, and acknowledged privacy and other concerns around the technology.

“There’s a lot of concern that it will target specific groups or people,” Driechel admits. “By us kind of bringing in a secondary layer of investigation around the matches, it allows us now to kind of confirm what we’re being told. It’s not just something we’ll simply act upon.”

Police in Durham Region, outside of Toronto, Canada, say they have used facial recognition from Clearview, as part of a test to see if it would help with local investigations, The Toronto Star reports.

The local police chief ordered the force to stop using Clearview until direction from the province’s Privacy Commissioner is received, according to a police spokesperson.

Four police forces in the greater Toronto area have now confirmed they have used Clearview’s facial recognition technology. Toronto, Peel, and Halton Police have previously disclosed use of the Clearview service, but after the Privacy Commissioner weighed in, each force suspended its use of Clearview’s technology.

Neither Ontario Provincial Police nor the federal RCMP have said whether they use the controversial software.

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