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Clearview fights biometric app ban by Canadian province in court

Clearview fights biometric app ban by Canadian province in court

Clearview AI is pushing back against a ban on its forensic face biometrics app imposed by a Canadian data protection body with a lawsuit reported by the Victoria Times Colonist.

The Privacy Commissioner of the Province of British Columbia levelled the ban after Clearview said it could not comply with recommendations made by a group of Canadian data protection authorities in December, 2021. The recommendations were for the company to cease offering its facial recognition to Canadian customers, stop collecting data from Canadians, and delete the biometric data of Canadians that it already possesses.

The recommendations to the company in December were based on the preliminary findings that launched a joint investigation by several Canadian data protection authorities last February, Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) Michael McEvoy notes.

That ban, however, is unreasonable and unenforceable, Clearview says in a suit filed with B.C.’s Supreme Court. The company argues that the provincial Personal Information protection Act the Commissioner cites does not apply to Clearview, which is based in the U.S.

Now Clearview is asking the court to declare the order unreasonable and quash the Commissioners order, and cites its freedom of expression right under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The company has never widely served the Canadian law enforcement, according to the filing, but the RCMP has been a paying customer. Clearview stopped providing licenses to its biometric technology in Canada in 2020, but has also previously declined to delete the facial images of Canadians.

CEO states case in letter to customers

An open letter to Clearview customers by Founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That argues that Clearview’s “technology and intentions” have been misinterpreted by countries like Canada that have blocked its use.

The letter reviews the company’s development following its introduction on the front page of the New York Times, and its growth from 10 employees then to over 45 today.

No wrongful arrest involving the company’s technology has been reported to date, Ton-That notes, but advocacy groups that have previously defended the collection of internet data on free speech grounds have reversed course to attack Clearview, he says.

America’s top tech innovators are largely fixated on generated ad clicks, Ton-That complains, while China pulls ahead in artificial intelligence research and adoption.

Clearview’s technology, meanwhile, has been used to rescue 103 children and arrest 66 child abusers by a single federal agency field office, out of more than 3,100 law enforcement agencies using its biometric app.

“We should not live in a world where the local news broadcasts a photo of a suspect or missing child and a justice system that relies on unreliable eyewitness testimony. Instead, we should live in a world where any criminal suspect or missing child can be identified in a matter of seconds. If your child was missing, you would want to use Clearview AI,” Ton-That writes.

“Both China and Russia have implemented real-time surveillance to target minority populations. We should not leave it to those countries to show the way for the world. We can set an example of using the technology, not in a real-time way, (emphasis in original) but in a way that protects human rights, due process, and our freedoms.”

The CEO says he welcomes the opportunity to engage with policy leaders and lawmakers to show facial recognition’s true value.

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