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Clearview AI agrees to delete facial images from biometric service, Canada excluded

Clearview AI agrees to delete facial images from biometric service, Canada excluded

Biometric facial recognition company Clearview AI has allegedly agreed to delete some of its data through an opt-out system, but this is not the case for Canada, CBC reports. In Canada’s case, people are allowed to check if their faces are in the database, yet there is no known process to request their data be deleted. Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner is not impressed.

When a CBC News reporter contacted Clearview AI with a headshot and requesting all images of him in the database, he received a file with 12 photos, including duplicates. They were closeup images from the CBC website, Twitter, and social media-scraping sites, although the social network had requested the company delete images and stop data collection from its platform.

While Clearview claims its technology was developed for law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, privacy advocates are concerned it could be used for massive surveillance without people’s consent. In Canada, the RCMP, and Toronto and Calgary police have confirmed the use.

In February, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner and those of the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec started an investigation to decide if Clearview AI violates federal or provincial data protection statutes.

According to the Clearview AI website, “You have the right to request that Clearview AI provides you with copies of your personal data.” Simply send an email to privacy-requests@clearview.ai. The company’s privacy policy says personal data can be deleted “under certain conditions,” which appear to be based on local data protection laws. Specific forms are provided from the company website for residents of Illinois, where the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) provides stringent rules, California, where the CCPA came into effect at the beginning of the year, and the European Union, United Kingdom and Switzerland, where GDPR has jurisdiction.

“We process privacy requests for opt-out and data access we receive from Canadian citizens,” Clearview AI CEO, Hoan Ton-That, said in a statement to CBC. According to the publication, however, based on the California Consumer Privacy Act definition of “opt-out,” this implies the company will no longer sell the data to third parties, which it denies doing.

Facing accusations that the technology has low accuracy rates for women and minorities, Ton-That rejects racial bias allegations and claims to be “committed to the responsible use” of facial recognition, according to CNET.

“As a person of mixed race, this is especially important to me,” Ton-That said in a statement. “We are very encouraged that our technology has proven accurate in the field and has helped prevent the wrongful identification of people of color.”

Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish believes residents should have the option to request data deletion since consent was not obtained anyway. However, the right to erasure is not explicitly covered in provincial legislation, as it is in EU’s GDPR. Beamish claims 15 police services in Ontario have used this technology in the past.

Commercial uses of private data in Canada are regulated by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which requires consent. The privacy authorities of the Canadian federal government and the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia are currently jointly investigating Clearview.

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