Ban Police Use of Facial Recognition in Canada

For years, Canadian law enforcement has been secretly using controversial facial recognition technology—that’s been shown to be discriminatory and biased—without any laws governing its use.1-3 

Now, some of the very companies that make these tools are refusing to sell them to the police until the government creates laws that regulate their ethical use.4

It is absurd it has come to this. To protect the rights of everyone, we need our lawmakers to act now. Sign the petition to ban the police use of facial recognition technology in Canada!

Click here to see petition text

For too long, Canadian law enforcement agencies have been quietly using facial recognition technology that’s been shown to be biased and discriminatory against women and people of colour.

There are no laws in Canada governing the use of biometric technology. As some of the companies that develop and sell facial recognition tools to law enforcement self-impose their own moratoriums, we need the Canadian government to find the courage to protect its citizens.

We’re calling on the federal and provincial governments of Canada to end the use of facial recognition technology by police forces across Canada by implementing a complete ban of its use by law enforcement.

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The use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement is widespread in Canada. All across the country, police forces have been using a product called Clearview AI, which scrapes publicly available images from the Internet and stores them in their internal database.5

With one photo and the click of a button, law enforcement can find every picture of you that exists online.

While many police forces initially denied using this technology, it was later revealed that the RCMP, the Vancouver Police Department, the Edmonton and Calgary Police Departments, the Toronto Police Service, the Halifax Regional Police, amongst others, had been using them.6-8

Two investigations by Canadian Privacy Commissioners have found that those uses were illegal forms of mass surveillance.9, 10 And Canada currently has no biometrics laws regulating the use of this technology.11

It’s incredible, but there’s no rules about how the police can use facial recognition technology to surveil protestors exercising their right to demonstrate, despite how these systems have been proven to discriminate against women and people of colour. In fact, Canada’s federal laws have intentionally excluded the creation of special categories for sensitive information, like our faces, and the federal government has said they won’t even consider creating them.12

How bad is it? Researchers found that Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ software incorrectly matched photos of 28 members of Congress in the United States to police mugshots.13 These biases in the software mean that people of colour are more likely to be the victims of police harassment, wrongful arrest, or worse.

Three big technology companies—Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM—that helped to develop this biased technology, and sold it to law enforcement agencies all over the world, have just introduced self-moratoriums on selling their product to police until law-makers enact rules around its ethical use.

But this isn’t enough. It shouldn’t be up to the companies that create and sell this dangerous technology to say when it can and can’t be used. That’s up to us, and the people we elect.

Let’s tell the Canadian government that we oppose the unregulated use of this dangerous technology by law enforcement. And when we do, we’ll also be telling the police that we’re watching what they’re doing, and holding them accountable.

Let’s not let the companies that profit from police discrimination make the rules in Canada. Sign the petition against the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement now!


  1. Gender and racial bias found in Amazon’s facial recognition technology (again) - The Verge
  2. Use of facial recognition technology by police growing in Canada, as privacy laws lag - CBC News
  3. The ACLU slammed a facial recognition company that scrapes photos from Instagram and Facebook - BuzzFeed News
  4. Big tech companies back away from selling facial recognition to police - Recode
  5. The secretive company that might end privacy as we know it - The New York Times
  6. RCMP admits to using Clearview AI technology - The Tyee
  7. Canadian privacy officials will investigate controversial facial recognition tool used by Toronto police - CTV News
  8. Halifax police confirm use of controversial Clearview AI facial recognition technology - Global News
  9. Joint Investigation of Clearview AI - Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  10. RCMP’s use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology violated Privacy Act, investigation concludes - Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  11. Use of facial recognition technology by police growing in Canada, as privacy laws lag - CBC News
  12. Weak privacy, weak procurement: The state of facial recognition in Canada - The Centre for Media and Democracy at McGill University
  13. AI researchers tell Amazon to stop selling ‘flawed’ facial recognition to the police - The Verge

Press: Matt Hatfield | Phone: +1 (888) 441-2640 ext. 0  | [email protected]