The Calgary Police Service (CPS) is trying to address the public’s concerns about new policing technologies including facial recognition. To that end, the organization is creating a new ethics committee, and is inviting members of the public to apply to sit alongside members of the department.
The deadline for applications is May 17, ahead of a first meeting in June. The committee will have anywhere from 12 to 15 members, each of whom will be expected to show up for at least four meetings over the course of a one-year term. Half of the members will be civilians, while the other half will be representatives of CPS.
CPS framed the decision as an attempt to be more transparent with the public about controversial technologies, including facial recognition. The committee will eventually create guidelines for the use of algorithmic policing tech, and all of those guidelines (in addition to any other committee work) will be shared with the general public. In that regard, the committee will not be handling any case work, so there are no concerns about confidentiality.
According to CPS, the ethics committee would become a permanent part of the police infrastructure in Calgary. The committee’s police representatives will be expected to have relevant technological expertise, as well as an understanding of diversity and anti-racism issues. Members of the public, on the other hand, can come from any background. On that front, CPS believes that citizens will be more likely to accept guidelines that reflect a wider range of perspectives.
CPS is already using facial recognition technology from NEC to cross-reference photos with its own mugshot database during investigations. It is also using Palantir Gotham to analyze social network information. However, the organization does not yet use any large-scale surveillance or predictive policing tools, and any future use would presumably need to clear the new committee before being deployed. CPS noted that predictive policing solutions are extremely prone to bias, and that attempts to determine who will commit a crime (and where crimes are likely to occur) often perpetuate certain forms of inequality.
With the committee, CPS is hoping to avoid some of the backlash that has hit police departments that have not been as transparent with the public, both in Canada and the United States. CPS suggested that the US has been more secretive about facial recognition than Canada, though police in Ottawa and Toronto have been criticized for failing to disclose their use of Clearview AI’s matching system. The Canadian Privacy Commissioner also ruled that the RCMP’s contract with the same company violated the country’s current privacy laws.
Source: Livewire Calgary
April 29, 2022 – by Eric Weiss