RCMP acknowledges using facial recognition technology, but won’t say where

The RCMP first recognized the use of controversial facial recognition technology that raised concerns about privacy, saying it was used in Mounts' efforts to crack down on child sexual abuse online.

The RCMP recognized the use of Clearview AI's facial recognition technology in a statement Thursday, detailing its use to rescue children from abuse.


The force said it had used the technology in 15 child exploitation investigations in the past four months, resulting in the identification and rescue of two children.

The statement also mentioned that "some RCMP units" are also using it to "improve criminal investigations", without providing details about the extent and location.

"Although the RCMP generally does not disclose specific tools and technologies used in the course of its investigations, in the interest of transparency, we can confirm that we have recently started using and exploring Clearview AI's facial recognition technology in a limited capacity," the statement said. said.


"We are also aware of the limited use of Clearview AI on an experimental basis by some RCMP units to determine its usefulness for enhancing criminal investigations."

CBC News has requested more details of where the force is using Clearview AI, but has not yet received a response.


Clearview AI technology allows the collection of a large number of images from various sources that can help police forces and financial institutions to identify people. Its use has raised concerns about whether the collection of this data complies with Canada's privacy laws.

While we recognize that privacy is paramount and a reasonable expectation for Canadians, this must be balanced with the ability of law enforcement to conduct investigations and protect the safety of Canadians, including the most vulnerable.– RCMP Declaration

Canada does not have a biometric collection policy, which are physical and behavioral characteristics that can be used to identify people digitally. This means that there are no minimum standards for privacy, risk mitigation or public transparency, according to the Canada Office of the Privacy Commissioner website.

Earlier this month, the federal privacy control body and three of its provincial counterparts agreed to jointly investigate the use of Clearview AI technology in Canada, after concerns arose over whether the company is collecting and using personal information without consent.


Countrywide guidelines

The federal control body also said that all privacy regulators in all provinces agreed to develop guidelines for organizations that use facial recognition technology. The RCMP said it will work with Canada's Privacy Commissioner as part of that effort.


"While we recognize that privacy is paramount and a reasonable expectation for Canadians, this must be balanced with the police's ability to conduct investigations and protect the safety of Canadians, including the most vulnerable," said the RCMP statement.

The Calgary police regularly use facial recognition technology, and the Toronto police have tested their own system. Hamilton says he tested the Clearview AI system, while the Ottawa Police Service tested an alternative technology by NeoFace Reveal last year, but says he does not use it now.

Edmonton and Saskatoon are considering using facial recognition technology. Montreal police have not confirmed whether it is being used. Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver say no. Other police forces contacted did not answer the questions.

A law enforcement tool

The federal Department of Justice said the country's Privacy Act regulates the extent to which federal entities can collect, use, disclose and retain personal information.

But this legislation does not apply to provincial or municipal police forces.

The RCMP is subject to the act, the Justice Department said, meaning that the force "can only collect personal information directly related to your mandate as Canada's national police force".

In a statement released last week, company lawyer Tor Ekeland defended the use of the technology. "Clearview accesses only publicly available data from the public Internet," he said.

"It is strictly a post-law enforcement investigation tool and is used to solve crimes, including murders, rapes and child exploitation. We received the letter [from privacy officials] and we look forward to a productive dialogue with the Canadian authorities ".

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