Canada, Facial Recognition, New Calls for Regulation

Canada, Facial Recognition, New Calls for Regulation

As the conversation regarding facial recognition software continues to be a point of contention worldwide, government officials within Canada have become the latest regulatory authorities that have called for legislation that would serve to restrict the use of facial recognition across the country. This being said, “The House of Commons ethics committee is calling for the federal government to put in place restrictions and laws on the use of facial recognition technology, including a moratorium on its unchecked use by police.” Subsequently, several MPs in Canada released a report this past Tuesday that expressed concern over the use of facial recognition cameras by the national police force, in addition to other prominent industries within the nation.

More specifically, the report contends that “Canada’s current legislation doesn’t adequately regulate facial recognition or artificial intelligence technologies. It warned that without adequate rules, those technologies “could cause irreparable harm to some individuals. Since such a legislative framework does not exist at the time, a national pause should be imposed on the use of FRT, particularly with respect to police services.” In this way, the Canadian MPs that conducted this report have echoed similar sentiments that have been conveyed by government officials in other countries, as the potential harms that have come to be associated with facial recognition technology have led many to suggest that such technologies must be regulated in a much more effective and efficient manner.

Facial recognition tech and the police

In what has become a common theme globally, one of the major points of contention that were raised in the report that was released by the Canadian House of Commons ethics committee this past Tuesday is the lack of restriction that the country’s police force faces when looking to implement facial recognition technology within a particular region within the country. Likewise, the report suggests that the use of facial recognition on behalf of the nation’s police force should be limited to instances where the police can “can confirm they are working with the privacy commissioner or have judicial authorization.” To support these views, the committee heard testimony from 33 different witnesses, and claimed that the vast majority of these witnesses “recommended imposing a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in Canada.”

On the other hand, the report also contends that the police within Canada should face “clear penalties” in instances where they are found to have utilized facial recognition technology without proper authorization. What’s more, the report also called for an outline of the circumstances and situations under which facial recognition technology can be used without infringing on the personal privacy rights of the nation’s people. For example, the report calls for all businesses that use facial recognition technology to disclose this information to any customers that may be interacting with said businesses, as there have been many highly publicized incidents in other countries around the world where customers shopping within a particular store were unaware of the presence of facial recognition cameras.

Algorithmic bias

On top of the concerns that facial recognition technology has caused with respect to personal privacy within the nation of Canada, algorithmic bias was another topic of discussion that was highlighted in the report conducted by The House of Commons ethics committee this week. Consequently, researchers that have studied various facial recognition cameras that have been implemented within Canada found that it “misidentifies more than one in three darker skinned women, but is 99% accurate for white men, citing Georgetown Law School research fellow Cynthia Khoo.” Once again, these mirror sentiments that have been expressed by privacy advocates in other countries, as the same biases that are inherent to human beings can be transferred to the software programs they create if left unchecked.

The use of facial recognition tech in other industries

What’s more, the report also addressed the fact that the use of facial recognition technology has become more widespread in recent years as it pertains to both private and public sector businesses. To this point, “Privacy lawyer Carole Piovesan told the committee that while discussions on FRT “tend to focus on security and surveillance,” the technology is also used by other sectors, including health care, retail and e-commerce, and telecom and IT.” Furthermore, the report also contests that previous attempts to regulate facial recognition technology within Canada have failed to generate promising results, as businesses within the country continue to use this technology without restriction.

In spite of the benefits that facial recognition software can provide under certain circumstances, particularly in the case of surveillance and theft prevention, these benefits must be weighed against the potential privacy risks associated with this technology as well. Within the nation of Canada, this dilemma is clearly very one-sided at the moment, as the nation has yet to enact significant legislation aimed at regulating facial recognition technology. For this reason, irrespective of the report that the House of Commons ethics committee released this week, the Canadian government will have to address the use of facial recognition technology within the country at some point in the near future.

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