In a statement emailed to the CBC, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said it will continue to use Clearview AI, but only “in very limited and specific circumstances.”
This comes amid growing concerns over the use of the controversial service by police forces across the globe.
“Our review of the continued use of this technology, and particularly Clearview AI, is ongoing,” said RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin in the email.
“In the interim, given the sensitivities surrounding facial recognition technology, we will only be using it in very limited and specific circumstances,” she added, while going on to reiterate that “[t]he RCMP will only use facial recognition technology, including Clearview AI, in exigent circumstances for victim identification in child sexual exploitation investigations, or in circumstances where threat to life or grievous bodily harm may be imminent.”
Clearview AI has been the subject of much public concern and criticism following a front-page story in The New York Times that revealed the company had scraped more than 3 billion images from public sites like Facebook, Google, and Instagram, and was selling them as part of a facial recognition service to law enforcement agencies across the globe.
That story was followed by another report that revealed Clearview’s client list had been stolen by hackers, which in turn prompted the RCMP to issue a statement in which it confirmed it had been using the service — after having previously denied doing so — for at least four months.
Speaking on behalf of the RCMP, Fortin said that six trial licenses were being used by units in the force that “focus on criminal investigations.”
“These trial licenses were used to assess its potential for use in a criminal investigation, or to help advance a criminal investigation,” said Fortin.
NDP MP Charlie Angus called on the Liberal government to place a temporary ban on the use of Clearview AI’s services until the privacy commissioner was finished with his investigation into the company.
The investigation into whether the RCMPs use of facial recognition software violates federal privacy laws was opened just over a week ago by the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
“The potential for this technology to track our personal lives and our movements is positively dystopian and we deserve basic protections from our government,” said Angus during a press conference earlier this week.
“In the U.S., many municipalities are banning the use of facial recognition software like this. The Liberal government should follow suit, at least until we know for a fact that no laws in Canada have been breached,” he added.
The RCMP has said that it will work with Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien and any guidelines regarding the use of the technology that come from the investigation being conducted.
Source: CBC News
March 10, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis