SIA testifies to lawmakers as fallout for police from Clearview AI facial biometrics scandal continues
Security Industry Association (SIA) Manager of Government Relations Drake Jamali testified to the importance of facial recognition as an investigative tool for law enforcement earlier this month at the Legislator’s Committee of the New Jersey Assembly on Science, Innovation and Technology.
New Jersey House Bill 1210, which is co-sponsored by committee Chairman Andrew Zwicker, would require public hearings to authorize the use of facial biometrics by law enforcement agencies in the state.
Jamali testified that facial recognition can provide major benefits to private and public sector organizations, citing the identification of 9,000 missing children and 10,000 human traffickers among examples of the technology’s value to police. While stressing that like any technology, facial recognition should only be used lawfully, ethically, and in a non-discriminatory way, Jamali says that the SIA believes that used effectively and responsibly, it can improve safety and bring value to people’s everyday lives.
He also stated that clarity about the proper circumstances for using the technology is necessary, and can be supported by open discussions like the hearing, which could help establish transparency as a governing principle for face biometrics and related processes.
“SIA applauds the work that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is doing to create a use policy handbook and allow for greater transparency on the technology’s use around the state. The information shared earlier today by the attorney general’s office is helpful to understanding how the technology is a useful tool for enhancing public safety in New Jersey,” Jamali told the committee.
“SIA suggests that further examination and multi-stakeholder dialogue on these issues should be undertaken before contemplating restrictions or a prohibition on this technology. We urge you to thoroughly examine how the technology is used, the issues at hand and the options available. Sensible transparency and accountability measures can be identified that would ensure responsible use of the technology without unreasonably restricting tools that have become so essential to public safety.”
Law enforcement agencies in the state were recently asked by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to stop using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology.
North Carolina force cuts ties
Police in Raleigh, North Carolina, have halted its use of Clearview biometrics and cut ties with the company, local paper The News & Observer reports (via GovTech).
The department contracted Clearview’s services for one year in August, 2019, for $25,000, a spokesperson disclosed. The technology was made available to three Raleigh Police Department employees, to investigate human trafficking and other major crimes without leads.
The force’s spokesperson states that the department attempted in February to find out how Clearview AI had used its technology in the past, but was unable to satisfy internal audit requirements. The department has a policy on facial recognition use, written in 2015, and the spokesperson noted the need for such policies to be reviewed with changes in technology.
A representative of the nearby Durham Police Department told The News & Observer that it does not use Clearview or any other facial biometric technology.
Police in the Canadian capital Ottawa piloted Clearview’s facial recognition service for three months in 2019, shortly before a public dialogue on CCTV camera use in public locations like the popular ByWard Market area, the Ottawa Citizen has revealed.
Ottawa police do not currently use facial recognition, and do not have plans to acquire it, but in a statement to the Citizen, the force said that “the Ottawa Police Service has explored the use of facial recognition technology as a tool to help solve crimes by utilizing photographs of persons of interests in criminal investigations and comparing them with existing databases collected per the Identification of Criminals Act, RSC 185.”
The statement came in response to questions from the Citizen, which also asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP declined to answer, saying instead that it monitors new and evolving technologies.
University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist, who specializes in technology and privacy law, told the paper that he is concerned about the use of facial recognition by police in the “absence of a robust legal framework that would govern the use of this kind of technology.”
Police said community engagement on rights protection would be necessary before any operational deployment, and that “multiple ethical considerations” would have to be accounted for.
“The pilot also served to highlight the technological and procedural challenges that would have to be addressed in order to implement the tool at OPS, in addition to the privacy and ethical challenges,” Ottawa Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal said in a statement.
Toronto police have been ordered by Chief Mark Saunders to stop using the company’s technology, which some members began using in October, even though the force told CBC News in January that it used facial recognition, but not from Clearview AI.
The confusion may stem from the use being a free trial, rather than a purchase. Ontario Provincial Police have said it uses facial recognition, but declined to comment on individual vendors. Toronto police have asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the Crown Attorney’s office to review the tool’s appropriateness for police use.
Police in the nearby Region of Peel acknowledged possession of a demo version of Clearview’s software, but said that testing had ceased, pending a review.
“The indiscriminate scraping of the internet to collect images of people’s faces for law enforcement purposes has significant privacy implications for all Ontarians. We have made it clear in the past that my office should be consulted before this type of technology is used,” Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish said in a statement, and urged any law enforcement agencies in the province using Clearview AI to contact his office.