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!