Clearview AI, an American company that provides biometric security software, will no longer offer its facial recognition services in Canada. It is reportedly pulling out of Canada in response to a joint investigation from Canadian privacy authorities. The company has also suspended its contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) indefinitely.
OPC’s investigation followed concerns about whether Clearview AI is collecting personal information without consent.
Clearview AI is currently under two investigations in Canada, both launched in February. One investigation is reviewing whether the company’s practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation. That investigation is being undertaken by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and privacy protection authorities in Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec. The second investigation relates to the RCMP’s use of Clearview’s technology and is being undertaken by the OPC.
In a news release published Monday, the OPC said the first investigation remain open, and that the OPC plans to complete and release the findings of its RCMP investigation at a later date.
“An ongoing issue under investigation by the authorities is the deletion of the personal information of Canadians that Clearview has already collected as well as the cessation of Clearview’s collection of Canadians’ personal information,” the OPC said. “The privacy authorities appreciate Clearview AI’s cooperation to date on the ongoing investigation, and look to the company’s continued cooperation as it is brought to conclusion.”
Clearview AI’s technology allows users to take a photograph of a person, and if the photo matches a face in its large image database, the company may be able to provide information about that person, including names.
The photos in Clearview AI’s database are obtained from public platforms like Google, Venmo, and YouTube, all three of which have since filed cease-and-desist letters asking Clearview AI to stop scraping their users’ images.
OPC’s investigation followed reports raising concerns about whether Clearview AI is collecting and using personal information and biometric data without consent.
Several police forces in Canada have publicly admitted to using Clearview’s services. In February, the RCMP confirmed it had also been using Clearview AI’s technology as part of its investigations into online child sexual exploitation.
Brian Beamish, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, has previously said Clearview should allow residents the option to have their images and data deleted from the platform, noting in a February statement that there are “vital privacy issues at stake with the use of any facial recognition technology.”
In its Monday announcement, the OPC said no further details on the investigations would be provided at this time, as they are still ongoing.
Image source Mike MacKenzie via Flickr.