The Liberal Party of Canada is facing criticism from privacy advocates for its use of facial recognition during its internal nominations process. The complaints are related to a biometric identity verification system that was used to enable online voting during the pandemic.
In that regard, the Liberal Party has historically selected candidates to run for office at in-person nomination meetings, where party members needed to be physically present to cast a vote for their preferred representative. However, those in-person meetings needed to be abandoned due to COVID-19 restrictions that limited the size of such public gatherings. Facial recognition allowed the party to complete that nominations process remotely, giving organizers a way to verify the identities of those eligible to vote.
The problem, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), is that that facial recognition technology is unreliable, and that its use infringes on the privacy of the Canadian public. The organization has asked the Liberal Party to stop using the technology, and British Columbia Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy is now considering a separate privacy investigation based on that request. He noted that the Liberal Party’s actions could run afoul of a BC privacy law that gives the province oversight over the actions of political parties.
BC is the only province with such a law on the books. McEvoy has not yet opened a formal investigation, but indicated that he will be examining the materials in the CCLA’s complaint later in the week. He went on to argue that the issue is important because political parties often have access to large amounts of personal information.
For its part, the Liberal Party insisted that its system was based on public guidelines published by the federal privacy commissioner. It also stressed that it is not storing biometric information, and that the data is deleted once a member’s identity has been verified.
“The Liberal nomination process is moving forward in a manner that ensures people can vote from their homes out of respect for public health precautions, while maintaining the integrity of our elections and protecting privacy,’” said Liberal Media Relations Manager Matteo Rossi.
The Canadian Privacy Commissioner has asked legislators to pass stricter facial recognition regulations, while the CCLA has called for a temporary ban on the technology. The BC Privacy Commissioner, meanwhile, was previously part of the investigation that found that Clearview AI’s facial recognition platform violated Canadian privacy law.
June 28, 2021 – by Eric Weiss