Briefing

Toronto police admit to using Clearview AI’s facial recognition tool

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After initially denying it, the Toronto Police Service said Thursday some of its members had begun “informally testing this new and evolving technology” in October 2019. A statement from police said Chief Mark Saunders ordered a halt to the software’s use on February 5. (Global News)

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Talking point: A January 18 New York Times story revealed that hundreds of law enforcement agencies (including the FBI and Homeland Security) were using Clearview’s app, which claims to have a database of over three billion images scraped from millions of websites. The investigation raised fears that universal facial recognition could be deployed at mass scale and infringe upon civil liberties. Five days later, BuzzFeed reported that the company overhyped its claims to law enforcement and covered up its founder’s links to white nationalists. Toronto police is the first Canadian law enforcement agency to openly admit to using Clearview AI; the Ontario Provincial Police have said they use facial recognition, but wouldn’t comment on the app, while the RCMP wouldn’t comment on the issue. In its admission today, Toronto police did not specify whether any arrests had been made using information from the app, nor did they specify how the data was stored. They have asked Ontario’s privacy commissioner and the Crown attorney’s office to review whether the app is an appropriate policing tool.