A trio of Canadian provinces are once again cracking down on Clearview AI. The privacy commissioners of British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec were part of an investigation that ruled that Clearview violated Canadian privacy laws in February, and have now ordered the company to stop collecting images of Canadians without consent, and to delete any such images that are already in their system. Clearview has also been ordered to stop using and sharing those images in its facial recognition operations.
The news is noteworthy because the three provincial orders are binding in a way that earlier Federal orders are not. Canada’s Federal Privacy Commissioner asked Clearview to stop collecting new images (and to delete old ones) in February. However, the Federal Commissioner does not have enforcement powers. Canada’s provincial privacy laws (at least in the three provinces in question) are actually stricter than the federal one, and carry more legal backing.
“We welcome these important actions taken by our provincial counterparts,” said Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. “While Clearview stopped offering its services in Canada during the investigation, it had refused to cease the collection and use of Canadians’ data or delete images already collected.”
The injunction further bars Clearview from selling facial recognition services in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec. Clearview suspended all of its operations in Canada when the privacy commissioners first opened their investigation in 2020, though the decision was voluntary at that time. The new order prevents Clearview from returning to the three jurisdictions.
For its part, Clearview has already indicated that it intends to ignore the new orders, just as it ignored Therrien’s federal order earlier in the year. An attorney for the company has argued that it has no obligation to follow the provincial edicts because it has stopped offering services in the country. The company has also pleaded incompetence, to the extent that the company claims that it cannot comply with the order because it cannot determine which photos were taken in Canada or depict Canadian citizens.
On that front, BC privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy has tried to call the company’s bluff, noting that Clearview has claimed that it can sort its database by region in a US court proceeding in which it pledged to limit its data collection practices in Illinois. Clearview has repeatedly expressed open disdain for international privacy laws, and has tried to argue that they do not apply to images posted to the internet. Courts have tended to disagree, with both Australia and the UK finding that the company has violated their domestic privacy legislation.
Source: Global News
December 15, 2021 – by Eric Weiss