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NEC America facial recognition adopted by Canadian police force

Company joins collaboration to fight human trafficking
NEC America facial recognition adopted by Canadian police force

NEC Corporation of America says it will work alongside an FBI-affiliated security group to combat human trafficking, while a Canadian media outlet reports that the company’s facial recognition software is being used by Edmonton Police Service to aid in investigations.

Edmonton police use NEC biometrics to identity suspects

Global News reports that NEC’s NeoFace Reveal facial recognition software has been used by Edmonton Police Service (EPS) since the start of 2022 to identify suspects in investigations.

EPS says the software will be used to identity a suspect on photos and CCTV footage through biometrics that compare the image to a mugshot database, consisting of face photos of people who have been criminally charged. Edmonton police say facial recognition can also help identity individuals in custody who provide false information.

Superintendent Warren Dreichel, the head of EPS’ Information Technology Division, told Global News that only “a select group of trained technicians” will be able to access and use NeoFace Reveal. Superintendent Devin Laforce, a member of EPS’ Research and Development Division, further elaborated by saying that requests to use the software by investigators must first be made to technicians before it can be used. Potential matches are reviewed by technicians before the investigation can take further steps, the EPS added.

While Laforce expects facial recognition to become more accurate and lead to more identifications, he stressed that, “Nothing is concluded by facial recognition on its own,” and that the method only produces “suggestions” for investigation to link the person to the crime. “There’s no power of arrest,” he told Global News.

Edmonton is not the first Canadian city to contract NEC’s facial recognition software, as Toronto police used NEC’s technology in 2018 to match suspects to its internal database. EPS says the technology will work with Calgary’s mugshot database as well.

EPS sought to assure the public of the safeguards and privacy protections it was implementing, with Dreichel saying, “It’s not being used to live stream, monitor or surveille those environments. The architecture, the technology itself, is not linked to any of those live systems.”

The police service said it is complying with Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy laws and submitted a privacy impact assessment to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta “several months ago,” but has not received a result yet.

A spokesman for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta told Global News that, “This technology raises several privacy considerations, and we appreciate the opportunity to review EPS’ program under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.” The spokesman commented about the privacy impact review, “Our review is underway. There is no timeline for completion.”

NEC joins FBI-affiliated group to combat human trafficking

NEC announced it would participate in an anti-human trafficking initiative by the InfraGard National Members Alliance, an FBI-affiliated non-profit organization.

The partnership, made in honor of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, entails programs that support awareness and prevention of human trafficking and information-gathering between the public and private sectors to strengthen community resilience, says a news release. Mark Ikeno, CEO and president of NEC Corporation of America, says NEC will “utilize our technology and assets to advance the shared goal of ensuring the safety and security of all Americans.”

There are more than 1,700 pending human trafficking cases with the FBI as of January 5, 2022, according to the announcement. Approximately 95 percent of the FBI’s human trafficking cases involve sex trafficking, and the remainder involve labor trafficking.

The InfraGard National Members Alliance, or InfraGard National, is dedicated to the protection of the American people and critical infrastructure.

Maureen O’Connell, president of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, says, “Human trafficking is a threat to not only public safety and national security, but to the dignity and worth of all human life. Law enforcement and the private sector must work together to raise awareness about the atrocities being committed in cities and neighborhoods across America.”

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