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Waterloo police confirm cybercrime unit was using controversial Clearview AI software

Toronto police use of Clearview AI raises privacy concerns
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto police use of Clearview AI raises privacy concerns

Waterloo Regional Police announced Wednesday that its cybercrime unit was using a controversial facial recognition tool by Clearview AI between Nov. 17, 2019, and Feb. 14, 2020.

In a statement, Waterloo police said the unit acquired a free licence at a conference on child exploitation in the days before it began using the technology.

READ MORE: Clearview AI: When can companies use facial recognition data?

The cybercrime unit primarily investigates sexual offences involving children.

RCMP in ‘full cooperation’ with privacy commissioner on review of Clearview AI: Blair
RCMP in ‘full cooperation’ with privacy commissioner on review of Clearview AI: Blair

They say that Chief Bryan Larkin has issued a directive to cease use of all facial recognition technology until privacy concerns are met and policies are in place for its proper use.

Clearview AI has come under fire as the technology allows for the collection of billions of images from public websites and social media sites that can help police forces and financial institutions identify individuals.

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READ MORE: Clearview AI: When can companies use facial recognition data?

A New York Times investigation earlier this year revealed the software had scraped more than three billion photos from Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to create a database used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

The Waterloo police force is one of many throughout the nation who have recently admitted to using the technology.

On March 1, provincial police said they had used it joining a list which already included the RCMP and forces in Toronto and Hamilton.

READ MORE: Hamilton police have tried controversial facial recognition app Clearview AI, says deputy chief

The federal privacy commissioner, along with his counterparts in B.C., Alberta and Quebec, is launching an investigation of the software’s use in Canada.

* With files from Global News’ Kerri Breen