The Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) is asking the Canadian government to suspend the use of facial recognition at the country’s borders to give legislators an opportunity to catch up with the technology. The organization is calling for a public assessment of the existing system, which would in turn lead to the creation of policies that better protect the privacy of foreign visitors and Canadian citizens.
The conclusions come via a new CIPPIC report titled “Facial Recognition at a Crossroads: Transformation at our Borders & Beyond.” CIPPIC is a public interest law clinic that deals with technology-related issues, and is based at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.
In the report, CIPPIC reviewed the state of facial recognition at border crossings, noting that the technology that was originally pitched only as a border security solution is increasingly being used for other purposes, including surveillance, law enforcement, and private applications. As a result, people are rapidly losing their right to privacy in live and online spaces, and policy regulations are not keeping pace with a technology that is becoming increasingly invasive.
CIPPIC also warned that facial recognition still has a severe problem with racial bias, which means marginalized populations are more likely to feel the ill effects when something goes wrong with the technology. If not addressed, biased facial recognition at borders could make other forms of systemic racism even more deeply entrenched.
The proposed moratorium is intended to give the Canadian government the time authorities need to create a more transparent and accountable facial recognition system. The CIPPIC report also argues that technology developers and border control agencies have exaggerated the efficiency benefits of facial recognition in an effort to sell the public on the technology.
CIPPIC’s procedural demands echo the Three Laws of Biometrics recently put forth by the Biometrics Institute. The organization is not the first to note that facial recognition has often outstripped privacy regulations, nor is Canada the only country with tension between government authorities and the general public with regards to facial recognition.
October 9, 2020 – by Eric Weiss