The Chief of Police in London, Ontario, has confirmed that seven department officers had access to Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition program. One of those officers went on to use the platform during an investigation. Others only tested the software using photos of themselves or well-known public figures.
The admission comes several weeks after the London Police Services Board (LPSB) was forced to walk back its initial statement on Clearview AI. The department had originally indicated that it had never used the Clearview software, but backtracked in March before carrying out the internal review that led to the recent announcement.
No one associated with the LPSB had paid for an official Clearview subscription. Rather, the officers had all been given free trials after the platform was presented to them during training courses and seminars dating to November of 2019.
“It was marketed to our officers as a trial, and they were provided free online access with a login code to try the software out,” explained London Police Chief Stephen Williams.
Clearview was extremely generous with free trials before its operations were exposed earlier this year. The company has marketed its platform as a law enforcement tool, and handed trials to almost anyone with a valid government email address in an effort to grow its clientele.
LPSB officials did express misgivings about those marketing efforts, which subverted the usual review channels for new technology. Williams acknowledged that facial recognition raises privacy concerns, and that the individual officers were not prepared to carry out a full review to assess its potential impact. The administrators who would normally provide oversight could not do so because they were never told that trials were taking place.
“I think it was quite problematic that it was rolled out without any systemic approach to actual leadership and governance boards,” said LPSB Vice Chair Susan Toth.
According to Williams, the LPSB has implemented a new review policy to make sure that new technologies are vetted before they are deployed in police activities. The RCMP has indicated that it will continue using Clearview, though the city of Waterloo has suspended its use of facial recognition.
Source: Global News
May 22, 2020 – by Eric Weiss