Toronto police chief halts officer use of controversial facial recognition tool

Feb 14 2020, 11:19 am

Toronto Police Chief, Mark Saunders, halted the use of a controversial facial recognition software used by some officers in the city.

Toronto Police Service spokesperson Meaghan Gray said Saunders was unaware that officers were using Clearview AI, an artificial intelligence platform, and as soon as he found out, he ordered officers to stop using the software immediately.

According to Gray, officers were using Clearview AI since October 2019 with the intent of “informally testing” the new technology.

“The chief directed that its use be halted immediately upon his awareness, and the order to cease using the product was given on February 5, 2020,” Gray said.

Gray said the police service has requested the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Crown Attorneys Office to work with the police force to review the technology.

The main concern with Clearview AI is data privacy — the platform helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images. The platform has access to over three billion images from social media platforms and other websites.

In light of the discovery the Toronto police want to evaluate the platform and check, “its appropriateness as an investigative tool,” Gray said. “Until a fulsome review of the product is completed, it will not be used by the Toronto Police Service.”

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