Privacy Commissioner believes facial-recognition software “raises significant concerns”

Feb 5 2020, 1:12 pm

Alberta’s Privacy Commissioner is expressing concerns about the potential use of facial-recognition software by police in Edmonton.

“There have been preliminary discussions with Edmonton Police Service about its potential use of facial recognition software,” said Scott Sibbald, spokesperson for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in a statement to Daily Hive.

“During those discussions, we have strongly encouraged EPS to submit a privacy impact assessment.”

According to Sibbald, a privacy impact assessment “is a process of analysis that helps to identify and address potential privacy and security risks that may occur in the operation of a new project that involves the collection, use or disclosure of personal information.”

“It is important to review whether appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that privacy and security risks are properly identified and addressed prior to implementation,” said Sibbald.

A spokesperson with EPS says that the software is being considered but hasn’t yet been put into place.

“The EPS is currently involved in a project assessing and engaging in a facial recognition solution, although it hasn’t been implemented yet,” said Cheryl Sheppard with EPS in a statement.

“The intention will be to use the technology in response to existing criminal investigations, using a database of pictures previously obtained for a lawful purpose (past mug shots).”

EPS says that they are also assessing all the privacy impacts and implications of using this technology.

The office of the privacy commissioner says that facial recognition technologies “raise significant concerns regarding privacy and security of personal information,” said Sibbald.

“These technologies often combine massive personal data sets with computing technology to make decisions about or for individuals.”

Sibbald says some principles for assessing these technologies include fairness for individuals and groups, accountability for all relevant stakeholders, transparency, mitigating unlawful biases or discriminatory practices, and more.

EPS says they will be providing more information in the coming weeks related to their use of this technology.