Clearview AI In Breach Of Canadian Privacy Laws
American facial recognition software developer/provider Clearview AI’s mass surveillance of Canadians amounts to the violation of federal as well as provincial laws regulating the use and distribution of personal and private information. This according to a report released earlier this week by the office of federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien in response to Clearview AI’s “image scraping” technology, which technology has been used to scrape literally millions of images of Canadians from the world wide web.
Clearview AI’s technology makes it possible for law enforcement authorities as well as commercial businesses to match the images of “unknown” people against those already captured by the company’s internal databank of photographs. This matching process is done for investigation purposes, which service is then contracted to law enforcement authorities.
The probe conducted by Therrien’s office has however concluded that the service offered by Clearview AI poses a significant risk of harm to many people – given most of them have never been, and probably never will be, involved in or implicated in any sort of criminal or illegal activity.
Clearview AI Responds
Clearview AI has in the meantime responded to the outcome of the investigation by claiming that Canadian federal and privacy laws do not apply to its image scraping and matching activities. The company claimed that since it does not have any real or significant connection to Canada as a country, much less its citizens, and since the information scraped by Clearview AI was in the public domain, it did not need any form of consent from the individuals themselves.
The watchdogs in charge of the investigation rejected Clearview AI’s arguments on the basis that the company not only actively sourced images of Canadians, but also actively marketed its services to local policing and law enforcement agencies – including the RCMP.
No More Canadian Connections
According to the investigation’s findings, the RCMP some time ago became an active and “paying client” of Clearview AI. It also discovered that at least 48 accounts were created by Clearview AI for law enforcement purposes.
Therrien’s office announced last year that the company would no longer be permitted to offer its facial recognition and biometric identification tech to Canadian companies and authorities, which shortly after led the suspension of the provider’s contract with the RCMP. And while the RCMP was Clearview AI’s last remaining contracted company on Canadian soil, the tech provider has failed to stop collecting images of people in Canada.
Privacy watchdogs have responded to the company’s failure/refusal to remove Canadian images from its databank by cautioning that if Clearview AI were to continue to resist, they would not shy away from taking legal recourse.