Toronto Police Chief Reveals Ongoing Use of Biometric Facial Recognition Tech

“The news of TPS’s use of facial recognition technology arrives at a time of heated debate over such practices, with civil and privacy rights advocates warning of potential overreach, as well as racial and gender disparities in the accuracy of facial recognition systems.”

Toronto Police Chief Reveals Ongoing Use of Biometric Facial Recognition Tech

Police in Toronto have been using facial recognition technology for over a year, the city’s police chief has revealed.

According to The Toronto Star, the revelation arrives in the form of a report submitted by Chief Mark Saunders to the Toronto Police Services Board ahead of a discussion slated for this Thursday. Saunders revealed that the Toronto Police Service started trialing facial recognition technology in 2014, and purchased such a system in March of last year for a little over $450,000, plus servicing fees.

Since then, officers have conducted 2,591 facial recognition searches, using the technology to match faces caught on CCTV cameras to those in criminal databases. Between March and December, TPS ran 1,516 searches, producing potential matches in 60 percent of those cases, with 80 percent of those leading to the identification of criminals.

Saunders emphasized that TPS doesn’t use real-time facial recognition technology, but instead applies it to video footage associated with criminal acts in an effort to identify potential suspects. “Many investigations were successfully concluded due to the information provided to investigators, including four homicides, multiple sexual assaults, a large number of armed robberies and numerous shooting and gang related crimes,” he asserted.

The news of TPS’s use of facial recognition technology arrives at a time of heated debate over such practices, with civil and privacy rights advocates warning of potential overreach, as well as racial and gender disparities in the accuracy of facial recognition systems. A recent wave of legislative efforts in California have sought to restrict the government use of facial recognition technology, with San Francisco having moved to ban it earlier this month – a development that itself has been contested as an overreaction by at least one local public safety advocacy group.

Source: The Toronto Star

May 28, 2019 – by Alex Perala