The Canadian Privacy Commissioner is once again warning that facial recognition technology poses a significant threat to people’s human rights. Commissioner Daniel Therrien’s latest comments were made during a presentation to a Canadian parliamentary committee, and referenced his office’s recent investigation of Clearview AI.
In that investigation, Therrien (in collaboration with his provincial counterparts in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia) ruled that Clearview violated Canada’s privacy laws by collecting images of Canadian citizens without the proper consent. The Commissioner asked Clearview to delete those photos from its database, and to refrain from collecting any more such photos in the future.
However, Clearview has yet to comply with those requests, making it relatively easy for users to perform surveillance on anyone still captured in the system. Clearview markets its services primarily to law enforcement agencies, and the RCMP was an enthusiastic customer until Clearview suspended its operations in Canada in response to the investigation. The RCMP has since come under fire for breaking its own rules for the use of facial recognition.
Therrien argues that Clearview’s failure to act highlights the pervasive nature of facial recognition technology, and underscores the need for greater regulation. He believes that legislators should prioritize the privacy rights of Canadian citizens over the commercial interests of facial recognition providers, and create stronger penalties for those that violate the law. The Commission lacked the authority to issue a fine to Clearview AI following its investigation.
“The Clearview case demonstrates how citizens are vulnerable to mass surveillance,” said Therrien. “The right to privacy is a prior condition to the exercise of other rights in our society. Poorly regulated uses of facial recognition technology therefore not only pose serious risks to privacy rights but also impact the ability to exercise other rights such as freedom of expression and association, equality, and democracy.”
The Canadian government is currently considering a new privacy law, though Therrien believes that it does not do enough to protect the Canadian public. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called for a temporary ban on the technology.
Source: Radio Canada International
May 14, 2021 – by Eric Weiss