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BriefCam video search with limited facial recognition licensed by Canadian police force

BriefCam video search with limited facial recognition licensed by Canadian police force

Police in Thunder Bay, Canada, have announced a software upgrade to the force’s street surveillance program with an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered system from BriefCam that performs automated searches through video footage with restrained facial recognition capabilities.

The software will be integrated into Thunder Bay’s Eye on the Street program, an expansion of the city’s closed-circuit camera surveillance system approved in June 2021. Its primary aim was to clamp down on crime and anti-social behavior, promote public safety, aid emergency responders and police investigations, and revitalize the downtown area.

With the addition of BriefCam, Thunder Bay police now have the benefit of an automated AI platform that can be prompted to search for certain features in a video uploaded to a cloud, like a specific clothing color. It also has analytics and face biometrics.

Thunder Bay police service’s director of communications and technology Chris Adams told the CBC that BriefCam would cut down on intensive human labor that requires an officer to sit down in front of a screen, repeatedly watch surveillance footage, and pore over the recording to spot details.

Adams said the software would not eliminate the role of a human investigator though, saying, “It still takes an investigator to use the tool to then go back to the original video, where those segments were, where an individual, a vehicle or whatever has been discovered, to actually then re-examine the original video to see if there is totality.”

BriefCam also features “very, very limited” facial recognition, Adams said, as he noted the risk of misuse and errors. He said it would be used for certain circumstances, such as a missing person in an “extremely serious incident where there’s extreme high risk,” but it would be balanced out with a governance model as a form of checks and balances. Thunder Bay police have informed the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario about the biometric software. Additionally, the city’s police services board is currently developing a privacy policy to govern the use of BriefCam software, a draft of which is due back at a future board meeting, the CBC reports.

Thunder Bay says that the information gathered through Eye on the Street’s surveillance is released in accordance with the standards of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Adams said the BriefCam software is purchased, but not yet implemented. Pilot programs will take place in the coming months to discover limitations and concerns, and officers are being trained in its use.

Matthew Pearson, Thunder Bay’s manager of central support, told the CBC that police requests for video from Eye on the Street have increased. He said the software will not create new privacy concerns, as the system’s footage is already available.

The potential use of BriefCam by Thunder Bay Police comes as Canadian lawmakers begin to take tentative steps to exploring stricter regulations on facial recognition used by police.

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