Federal lawmakers want strict regulation of facial recognition

In a report presented on Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics also urges the government to develop a regulatory framework for the use, bans, monitoring and privacy protection of this new tool.

Face recognition technology compares an image of a face against a database of millions of photos to identify a person.

MEPs on the committee say adequate privacy safeguards should address issues like the accuracy, retention and transparency of facial recognition initiatives. They also recommend a comprehensive strategy for Canadians’ informed consent to the use of their personal information.

MPs are also asking the government to amend the Privacy Act to ban the private sector from taking pictures of Canadians online or in public places to feed databases used by facial recognition technology or artificial intelligence algorithms.

Several people appearing before the committee acknowledged that facial recognition can sometimes be useful, for example to authorize a payment or to keep medical information in a mobile phone confidential.

However, these people warned that this technology has some disadvantages. Blacks and Asians in particular can experience increased misidentifications, it can also be used for illegal surveillance and the laws for this are not up-to-date. Committee members were also warned that there was a lack of transparency on the part of the police and intelligence services.

Without proper oversight, facial recognition technologies and other artificial intelligence tools could cause irreparable harm to some people. »

A quote from Excerpt from the report

These new technologies must therefore be used with care and be subject to strict laws, according to the elected members of the committee.

Since this legal framework does not currently exist, a national pause in use should be introduced [technologie de reconnaissance faciale]especially with regard to police serviceswrite the MEPs in their report.

The committee encourages strongly the government to implement its recommendations as quickly as possible.

An awaited report

International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group National Coordinator Tim McSorley welcomed the submission of this report. He added that many interest groups interested in the issue of data protection in the context of new technologies have been demanding concrete action from the federal government for two years.

We hope that this new report will finally lead to a reform of the laws needed to regulate the use of facial recognition and more generally all artificial intelligence.remarked Mr. McSorley, who appeared before the committee last March.

In May 2022, Canada’s privacy commissioners said they believed it should be illegal for police to use facial recognition technology to monitor people taking part in peaceful protests.

In a joint statement, federal, provincial and territorial privacy agencies also called for a ban on any police use of this technology that could lead to mass surveillance.

Privacy officials in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have also ordered facial recognition company Clearview AI to stop collecting, using and disclosing images of people without their consent.

An investigation into the three provincial watchdogs and their federal counterpart in February found that Clearview’s AI technology led to mass surveillance of Canadians and violated federal and provincial laws governing personal information.

Jillian Snider

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