OPP admit using controversial facial recognition software Clearview AI
An Ontario Provincial Police badge is seen in this file photo. (File Photo/The Canadian Press)
Bryann Aguilar, CP24.com
Published Sunday, March 1, 2020 3:19PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, March 1, 2020 3:20PM EST
The Ontario Provincial Police have confirmed Sunday that their officers have used Clearview AI, becoming the latest police service to acknowledge the use of the controversial facial recognition technology.
In a news release, the OPP said officers from four special areas have been using a free trial of the online software since December 2019.
Clearview AI has been under scrutiny for collecting billions of public images from the Internet to build a proprietary image search tool, which it sells to law enforcement.
The OPP said the software was primarily used for victim identification by members from the Child Sexual Exploitation Unit, Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, Digital Forensics Unit and Cyber Crime Investigations.
"In one instance, Clearview AI assisted with the identification of victims; following further investigation, a suspect was identified and charged with child pornography-related offences," provincial police said in a news release.
The OPP said they immediately ordered to stop the use of the software after learning that some members have been testing it.
The announcement comes days after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police acknowledged that they, too, have been using Clearview AI.
The RCMP said it had used the software in 15 cases, resulting in the identification and successful rescue of two children.
"The Internet has changed the way child sexual exploitation offences are committed, investigated and prosecuted, and Clearview AI is only one of many tools/techniques that are used in the identification of victims of online child sexual abuse," the mounties said in a release
Toronto police and other GTA police services have also confirmed earlier last month that they previously tested the software.
Clearview AI became the subject of a New York Times report in January, revealing that more than 600 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as a handful of financial companies, have been using the software.
In another report from Buzzfeed News, Canada is Clearview's largest market outside of the U.S. The story said more than 30 law enforcement agencies in the country have access to the software.
Last week, The Daily Beast reported that the company suffered a data breach and that an intruder had gained unauthorized access to its client list.
"Security is Clearview's top priority. Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century. Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw and continue to work to strengthen our security," the company's lawyer said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.
The OPP said "there is no compromise or risk to the OPP network or infrastructure as a result of this breach."
The provincial police service said they are engaged with Ontario's privacy watchdog and will report future use of any facial recognition technologies.
Ontario's privacy commissioner Brian Beamish had said it is collaborating with all its federal and provincial counterparts "to develop guidance on the use of emerging biometric technologies, including facial recognition, by the private sector or public sector organizations."
Canadian privacy officials have launched an investigation into the use of Clearview AI software in the wake of recent media reports.
Privacy officials said the reports had "raised questions and concerns about whether the company is collecting and using personal information without consent."