The Guelph Police Service in Ontario has confirmed that it trialed Clearview’s controversial facial recognition program. The news comes through a Freedom of Information request, which uncovered a letter that was sent from the Service’s legal counsel to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) on March 13.
The letter was sent after the IPC asked the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police to confirm whether or not their departments had sampled Clearview’s software, and to cease its use of the program if they had. Guelph is now one of several municipalities known to have used Clearview AI, joining a list that already includes London and Waterloo.
“I can advise that the Guelph Police Service used Clearview AI for a very brief period of weeks in the months of October and November 2019,” wrote legal counsel Judith Stoffman. She indicated that Clearview was only used by a single member of Guelph’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit, who had obtained a free trial of the program.
That free trial is in keeping with Clearview’s apparent marketing strategy. The company is known to have provided free trials to seemingly anyone with an official government email address, especially if they worked in law enforcement in some capacity. Those trials often circumvented the traditional approval process for new technology, so many police chiefs may not have been aware that their employees had been given access to the system.
According to Stoffman’s letter, the Guelph investigator was able to identify one suspect with Clearview AI, and believed that the company’s database was based on open source materials.
The news comes shortly after Clearview AI terminated all of its contracts in Canada in response to a slew of Federal and provincial privacy investigations. Clearview has stated that Canadians can opt out of its database, although it has somewhat paradoxically claimed that people need to submit a photo to complete that process.
Source: Guelph Mercury Tribune
July 29, 2020 – by Eric Weiss