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Canada considers illegal collection and sale of facial recognition data by US company illegal


Canada Data Privacy Authority, the Office of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner (OPC), considered as the activity of the company Clearview AI, for violating federal data privacy laws. According to the OPC, the company collects billions of images of people on the internet and sells them to private sector companies, governments and police, which represents mass surveillance and violates privacy rights of the Canadian population.

An OPC investigation, which began in February 2020, found Clearview AI to provide private companies, governments and police, databases with more than 3 billion images of unknown people, including Canadian adults and children, in addition to collecting “highly confidential biometric information without the knowledge or consent of individuals” and disclose Canadian personal information “for inappropriate purposes”.

The body responsible for enforcing data protection and privacy laws explains that this activity represents significant damage to the privacy of Canadian citizens, especially those who have never committed crimes.

What Clearview does is mass surveillance and this is illegal. It is completely unacceptable that millions of people who will never be involved in any crime are continually in a police line, ”writes Daniel Therrien, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, in a statement, published on Wednesday (04).

Clearview AI, which is based in New York, USA, argues that as it is not installed in Canadian territory it does not have a “real and substantial connection” with local law. In addition to defending that the damage caused to the population is unlikely, since it provides data for “national security” and law enforcement.

The authority rejected the arguments of the American company, claiming that collection and sale of data is done without the consent of individuals. The OPC asked the company to stop offering facial recognition services to customers in Canada and to exclude its citizens’ databases.

According to the OPC, Clearview agreed to stop providing services to customers in Canada, but disagreed with the results of the investigation and “Did not show willingness to follow the other recommendations”, such as interrupting data collection. The OPC continues to investigate and seek other ways to bring Clearview into compliance with the country’s laws.

“As the use of facial recognition technology expands, significant issues around precision, automated decision making, proportionality and ethics persist. […] We need to discuss acceptable uses and the regulation of facial recognition, ”says Jill Clayton, Alberta’s information and privacy commissioner.

Source: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

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