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Do Calgary police face recognition software, body-worn cameras violate your privacy?

Calgary police say their body-worn cameras and new face recognition software won’t violate the privacy of citizens, despite concerns raised by Alberta’s privacy watchdog.

“Police agencies have broad authority under the FOIP act to collect, use and disclose personal information for law enforcement purposes,” said Jill Clayton, Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“But I have questions regarding how CPS is implementing these technologies, and specifically what steps have been taken to ensure privacy and security risks have been identified and addressed,” she added.

Facial recognition technology is already being used by Calgary police and body worn cameras could be rolled out as soon as next month.

CPS is adamant it takes the privacy of Calgarians very seriously.

“We have built in and engineered all of these systems the – body worn camera and the facial recognition – with those privacy considerations,” said spokesman Kevin Brookwell.

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He said CPS worked with lawyers who specialize in this area to make sure there are strict criteria in place to address privacy issues right from the start.

Brookwell said only the names of suspects in criminal matters will be entered into the CPS facial recognition database, and there are strict guidelines in place governing who can access and use it.

Data captured by uniformed officers wearing cameras will be saved for 13 months, and destroyed if it’s not required for future court cases.

Anyone who believes they have been videoed can file a request to see the images under freedom of information laws.

Clayton asked CPS to complete a privacy impact statement when the body cameras were first introduced, but said she has yet to hear back.

She is concerned about accuracy of any matches found by facial recognition software, and how the information will be monitored and enforced.

She also wants to know what policies and training are in place for officers wearing the cameras.

Calgary police said they are confident proper guidelines are in place but said they look forward to sitting down with the Commissioner to address all concerns.

The investigation will not delay plans to roll out body worn cameras.

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At the end of the investigation the privacy commissioner may have recommendations for the police service, but they are not binding.