Facial recognition: Clearview AI violates Canadians’ privacy

Facial recognition: Clearview AI violates Canadians' privacy

Clearview AI, the U.S. company that developed the controversial facial recognition technology, is conducting illegal “mass surveillance” in Canada, according to an investigation report released Wednesday by privacy watchdog groups across the country.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Terrian said in a statement with his three provincial colleagues on Wednesday that by taking pictures of billions of people on the Internet, the company was violating Canadian laws to protect privacy.

Clearview AI technology enables the collection of numerous images from a variety of sources. This vast image bank will then help police, financial institutions and other clients identify strangers using facial recognition technology.

Among many other things, the report notes that the US company has created a database of “over three billion face pictures” including pictures of many Canadians and children. Like business organizations, the police force has gained access without the consent of the people, insulting Commissioner Daniel Terrian and his colleagues in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Commissioners believe that this “mass surveillance” to create Clearview’s image bank is an “insult to the right to privacy” and “a common harm to all members of the community who continue to find themselves in police identities.”

“This is totally unacceptable,” he said. Terrian told a news conference Wednesday.

Clearview Say Defend

Clearview told AI investigators that Canadian privacy laws do not apply to its operations because the company does not have a “real and substantial affiliation” with Canada and does not require approval as the information is publicly available.

The commissioners rejected these arguments. They also discovered that Clearview not only collected images of Canadians, but also actively sold its services to law enforcement agencies across the country.

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In response to the inquiry, Clearview AI said it would stop offering its face recognition services in Canada. Terrian announced last year. Clearview terminated its contract with RCMP indefinitely, leaving it the only customer left in the country. However, the U.S. agency rejected the recommendations of four commissioners to stop collecting pictures of people in Canada and to remove pictures and biometric details of individuals already in possession.

Commissioners warned Wednesday that if the company continued to oppose, they would take “other measures” available under their respective laws.

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Cory Weinberg

About the Author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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