Members of the House of Commons committee on information, privacy and ethics voted this week to examine the technology’s effects on civil society, privacy rights, minorities and vulnerable populations. NDP Critic for Indigenous Youth Charlie Angus makes his way to the podium for a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

The controversial use of facial-recognition tools will soon be scrutinized by MPs.

Members of the House of Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics voted this week to examine the technology’s effects on civil society, privacy rights, minorities and vulnerable populations.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, who put forward the idea, suggested the committee study use of the emerging tools by governments, police, companies and individuals.

Advanced digital applications now allow computers to quickly sift millions of stored images and match them against photos of a person taken at places such as an airport, demonstration or sporting event.

In an unusual statement Thursday, the RCMP said it has been experimenting with facial-recognition technology supplied by U.S. firm Clearview AI in investigations of online child sexual exploitation.

“Only trained victim identification specialists … use the software primarily to help identify, locate and rescue children who have been or are victims of online sexual abuse,” the statement said. According to the RCMP, Clearview AI’s techology has been used in 15 cases and has led the Mounties to two children who were being victimized.

ALSO READ: Surveillance is in at CES Gadget Show – in a big way

The force has also tried the technology out “to determine its utility to enhance criminal investigations,” the statement said.

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children, seniors and various racial communities.

They will also investigate how the tools can be used for criminal harassment or other illegal surveillance purposes, as well as any links between Canadian police and technology firms that market such applications.

Angus told the committee the first step will be getting a better understanding of “the growing power of artificial intelligence” and how it can lead to biased results that infringe on people’s rights.

His push for the review drew support from Liberal MP Michael Levitt, who called it a “most important study in an area that is moving so, so rapidly.”

“I think this issue is a defining issue of our time.”

The federal privacy watchdog and three of his provincial counterparts announced last week they will look into the use of Clearview AI’s technology.

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien said he will be joined in the probe by ombudsmen from British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.

Media reports have raised questions and concerns about whether the company is collecting and using personal information without consent.

Privacy regulators in every province and territory have agreed to develop guidance for organizations — including law enforcement — on the use of biometric technology such as facial recognition.

The RCMP’s statement said the federal police will work with Therrien to devise guidelines and policies on how to use the technology properly.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

RCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coastal GasLink gives $100K to United Way efforts in Northern B.C.

Organization’s COVID-19 Relief Fund benefits seniors in isolation, among others

UPDATE: First presumptive case of COVID-19 in Prince Rupert

Doctor says it was a visitor, Northern Health won’t confirm

Fisheries and Oceans Canada lifts at-sea observer requirements due to COVID-19

Fisheries Management Order went into effect April 2 and will remain for 45 days

Some Smithers businesses may re-open sooner rather than later

Weekly Chamber of Commerce video conference focuses on business concern amid COVID-19

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

Most Read