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Canadian police illegally used controversial facial recognition technology

According to an investigative report, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police violated the law by using controversial facial recognition technology from US company Clearview AI. This would constitute “a significant invasion of privacy”.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the country’s federal police) broke the law by using the controversial facial recognition technology of the American company Clearview AI, according to an investigative report released on June 10 by the Canadian Commissioner for Human Protection. private life.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) “broke public sector law [sur la protection des renseignements personnels] when it collected personal information from Clearview, ”said Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien. “A federal institution cannot collect personal information from a third party if the latter has collected it illegally”, he stressed during a press briefing, basing his conclusions on the use of 521 searches carried out by the RCMP with Clearview AI. “The use of facial recognition technology by the RCMP to search huge repositories of data on Canadians not suspected of criminal acts constitutes a major invasion of privacy,” also said Daniel Therrien.

In addition, the Canadian regulator is concerned that the RCMP did not agree with the conclusion that they had violated the law. According to the police, it is not their responsibility to ensure that the database used is compiled legally. However, my Office notes that the RCMP agreed to implement its recommendations “despite this fundamental disagreement”. In particular, it recommends that it set up a training program on the limits of the collection of personal information.

A company that carried out illegal “mass surveillance”

The RCMP had previously admitted to having used this technology for several months, which can help locate strangers, in the context of investigations into cases of sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. She stopped using it in July 2020, when the company stopped offering its services in Canada.

The publication of this investigation comes in addition to another report released in February, in which my office concluded that Clearview AI – which developed controversial facial recognition technology – carried out illegal “mass surveillance” in Canada. This previous investigation had established that Canadian police forces and private sector organizations had access to this technology, allowing them to search from a database of “more than three billion images of faces ”collected without the consent of individuals.

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