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

‘Keeping workers safe is crucial in times of COVID-19’: Hospital Employees’ Union

Cannot fight a virus without housekeeping in hospitals, care homes, said Jennifer Whiteside

Salute to Cariboo Place health care workers planned for April 3

Vantage Living is inviting people to show their support

CN suspending service between Williams Lake and Squamish, effective April 3

Rail traffic north of Williams Lake will be routed to Vancouver through Prince George and Kamloops

COVID-19: Quesnel’s Billy Barker Days Festival will happen but may be delayed and look different

‘It will be something different than it has been in other years,’ say organizers

From inside the ER: B.C. doctor tells it like it is from the frontlines of COVID-19

‘Stay home. It’s working,’ says ER doctor in a Q&A discussion, ‘And please don’t worry.’

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Trudeau commits $100M to help food banks amid COVID-19 crisis

Funds will help ‘urgent food needs’ for Canadians awaiting federal emergency benefits to kick in

Couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas: Cowichan by-law

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

How well can cell phones carry COVID-19? Disinfecting may be wise

‘You want to keep it as clean as you would normally your hands’

Most Read