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Canadian police reveal face biometrics tools used for missing persons investigations

Canadian police reveal face biometrics tools used for missing persons investigations

Canada’s federal police force has been using facial recognition software Traffic Jam and Spotlight to investigate human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, Politico reports. Traffic Jam is developed by Marinus Analytics and Spotlight is developed by Thorn, co-founded by Ashton Kutcher.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police submitted documents to Canada’s Parliament providing information about its use of face biometrics, which indicate that it stopped using the technologies in 2020. The self-imposed pause on the use of facial recognition tools was as part of the RCMP’s response to public concern about the technology’s use, along with an internal review.

A National Technology Onboarding Program was created by the RCMP in March of 2021, after the Federal Privacy Commissioner and several of his provincial counterparts ruled that the use of Clearview AI is illegal in Canada.

The RCMP began using facial recognition for missing persons investigations in 2016. Both Traffic Jam and Spotlight use Amazon’s Rekognition to perform biometric matching.

The force has also considered deploying biometric kiosks for background checks on government employees, the document submitted to Parliament say.

Kate Robertson, a criminal lawyer and research fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, tells Politico that more transparency and legal limits are needed.

Members of the House of Commons have also called on the RCMP to increase its transparency, including in answers given during one in a series of hearings on facial recognition held by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

“When used responsibly, facial recognition technology can offer significant benefits such as helping solve serious crimes, locating missing persons and supporting national security objectives,” said RCMP spokesperson Vito Pilieci, according to Politico. “However, it can also be extremely intrusive, enable widespread surveillance, provide biased results and erode human rights.”

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