Police need to have clear details of how and where they can use facial recognition says Canadian privacy regulators.
Facial recognition has become so advanced over the years it has become a great tool to help with investigations but then it also raises privacy concerns for the general public.
On Monday, May 2, Canadas privacy commissioners from coast to coast released a joint statement recommending legislators to develop a frame work that clearly outlines and establishes the circumstances in which police use of facial recognition may be acceptable.
Michael McEvoy, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, stated that when used correctly, the technology has considerable safety benefits. Nonetheless, McEvoy believes that the gathering of facial photographs is something that everyone should be concerned about.
“Facial recognition technology has enormous capabilities and can offer significant public safety benefits when used responsibly,” says BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy.
As cameras monitor various parts of people’s lives, Canada now has a patchwork of rules governing a rising technology sector. On May 2, 2022, Canada’s Privacy Commissioners released a joined statement they want a framework that addresses the technology’s various applications and threats to personal privacy.
“It can also be exceptionally intrusive because it involves the collection and processing of highly sensitive personal information. Biometric facial data is unique to each individual and unlikely to vary significantly over periods of time. In a very real sense, it is at the core of our individual identity.” McEvoy said in a statement
“We need law reform and regulations on this specific issue. With Clearview AI, we saw a U.S.-based facial-recognition company selling a service to Canadian police organizations,” Larsen said. “The company disputed the jurisdiction of the commissioners, and some police argued that they were not responsible for vetting the service provider’s compliance with our privacy law. That’s a mess.” said Larsen.
On May 5 at a privacy committee meeting, privacy commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien said currently in PIPEDA there is no requirement for the RCMP or any other government agency to only use legally acquired data. Meaning the RCMP and other agency’s can contract out to hackers and criminals to provide them data sets of images and other personal information that have been stolen from other companies and services.
“What Clearview does is mass surveillance, and it is illegal,” Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien said at the time.
The use was found unlawful because the RCMP replied on the illegal collection and use of data by Clearview AI
Daniel Therrien said Clearview AI is currently not offering its service in Canada because of the ongoing challenge they have going with the Canadas privacy commissioners. He is not aware of any mass facial recognition surveillance and doesn’t have any reason to believe they are but the RCMP only gave a vague generalized answer.
When he was asked for a suggestion how to write the legislation to be flexible to new technologies. Therrien said we currently have laws.
“we do have laws obviously we have the charter we have the common law there are some statutes like the RCMP act that govern the situation and in the private sector we have PIPEDA.” Therrien said adding
But added when it comes to facial recognition it would need an addition of specific rules so it’s not abused.
“in the case of facial recognition because of the extremely high risk to privacy and other rights such as democratic rights of demonstrating or equality rights. We say that there ought to be specific provisions. For instance in the case of the police to prohibit users except in certain circumstances so a good grounding of principles based legislation makes sense but in the case of facial recognition with an addition of a few specific rules that ensure that the broad principles are not. I’ll say abused or not interpreted in an overly generous way”
However the RCMP is saying because the Privacy Act doesn’t specifically say federal institutions such as the RCMP have an obligation to know if the data was collected in a lawful way by their commercial partners before public sector uses, they are not subject to this policy.
“It is true that section 4 does not explicitly require that a federal institution. We think that that requirement exists implicitly. Essentially imagine federal institutions would be able to contract out, would be able through contracting with the private sector to engage in practices that it cannot engage directly.” said Daniel Therrien
Adding the privacy commissioners of Canada believe this is unacceptable for the federal agencies to contract our to private third parties as a loophole or a work around to collect data in ways they are not legally allowed to.
“That is unacceptable we think the law does not allow for that that said so is it credible or is it reasonable there is some credible basis for the RCMP’s position to the extent that there is ambiguity in the law. I would encourage you strongly to close that loophole and to require government institutions not only the RCMP but all government institutions to ensure when they rely on the private sector that what they’re buying is lawful” said Daniel Therrien
Privacy Commissioner of Ontario Patricia Kosseim added on to that statement “I would simply add that mass surveillance is the area that caused us the greatest concern on behalf of all federal provincial and territorial commissioners and that’s whether it be done by a private sector third party, private sector company on behalf of police service or the police service itself this is an area that we’ve highlighted in particular as as worrisome”
Privacy guardians also released final guidance to clarify police agencies’ privacy obligations
relating to the use of facial recognition under the current law.
The guidance and joint statement follow a public consultation launched in June 2021 to seek feedback on both a draft version of the guidance and a future legal and policy framework to govern police use of the technology.
The consultation followed an investigation into Clearview AI that found the private sector platform was involved in mass surveillance. A separate investigation found that the RCMP’s use of Clearview to be unlawful, since it relied on the illegal collection and use of facial images.
The company has challenged that finding.