Canadian Privacy authorities ruled Clearview AI surveillance of Canadians illegal

Clearview AI’s technology allowed law enforcement and commercial organizations to match photographs of unknown people against the company's databank of more than 3 billion images, including of Canadians and children, for investigation purposes.
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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada found technology company Clearview AI’s mass surveillance and collection of billions of images of people across the internet a clear violation of Canadians’ privacy rights. 

Four Canadian privacy commissioners concluded that the New-York based technology company violated federal and provincial laws. 

According to the statement, “Clearview’s’ AI technology allowed law enforcement and commercial organizations to match photographs of unknown people against the company’s databank of more than 3 billion images, including of Canadians and children, for investigation purposes.” 

According to Clearview AI, consent was not required because the information was publicly available

The report found that Clearview AI violated Canadian privacy laws by collecting Canadians’ photos without their knowledge or consent. The company collected highly sensitive biometric information. Clearview used and disclosed Canadians’ personal information for inappropriate purposes. 

According to its website, Clearview AI is a new research tool used by law enforcement agencies to identify perpetrators and victims of crimes. 

“It is unacceptable and deeply troubling that a company would create a giant database of our biometric data and sell it for profit without recognizing its invasive nature. The results of our work also point to the need to strengthen our privacy laws to properly protect the public,” said Michael McEvoy, British Columbia’s privacy commissioner. 

According to Clearview AI, Canadian laws do not apply to its activities because it does not have a “real and substantial connection” to Canada. When presented with the investigation findings, the company argued that the information collected was public and posed no threat to the individuals. 

The investigation raised concerns about the potential risk of misidentification and exposure to potential data breaches. 

The privacy authorities recommended that Clearview stop offering its facial recognition services to Canadian clients and delete all Canadians’ previously collected images and facial arrays. 

After the investigation began, Clearview agreed to stop providing its services in the Canadian market. It discontinued its trial accounts to Canadian organizations and discontinued its services to its only remaining Canadian subscriber, the RCMP, in July 2020. 

Clearview argued that they could not be held responsible for offering services to law enforcement or any other entity that subsequently makes an error in its assessment of the person being investigated. 

Clearview maintains that it is not responsible for the accusations made against them by the Commissioner’s office.

If the company does not comply with certain demands from the office, such as deleting previously collected data, the four authorities will pursue other actions available under their respective acts to bring Clearview into compliance with Canadian laws.

Wiki Production Code: A0582

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