Facial Recognition startup Clearview AI has been ruled for violating Canadian privacy laws for collecting photos of Canadian citizens without their consent by the authorities of the country.
Canada’s Privacy Commission office has published a statement saying that its investigation found the New York-based company had “collected highly sensitive biometric information without the knowledge or consent of individuals,” and that the startup “collected, used and disclosed Canadians’ personal information for inappropriate purposes, which cannot be rendered appropriate via consent.”
“What Clearview does is mass surveillance and it is illegal,” said Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy commissioner. “It is an affront to individuals’ privacy rights and inflicts broad-based harm on all members of society, who find themselves continually in a police lineup. This is completely unacceptable.”
“Clearview AI’s technology is not available in Canada and it does not operate in Canada. In any event, Clearview AI only collects public information from the Internet which is explicitly permitted under PIPEDA. The Federal Court of Appeal has previously ruled in the privacy context that publicly available information means exactly what it says: ‘available or accessible by the citizenry at large.’ There is no reason to apply a different standard here. Clearview AI is a search engine that collects public data just as much larger companies do, including Google, which is permitted to operate in Canada.”Doug Mitchell, an attorney for Clearview AI, said
Clearview AI made a headlines last year when New York Times research reported that the company has collected over 3 billion images of people’s faces scraped from social media sites for its facial recognition software which is being used by law enforcement agencies and police department around the world.
Clearview denied the allegations by the authorities claiming that the country’s privacy laws do not apply because the company doesn’t have a “real and substantial connection” to the country, and that consent was not required because the images it scraped were publicly available.
Canadian authorities rejected the arguments made by Clearview and said that it would “pursue other actions” if the company does not follow its recommendations of stopping and deleting the collection of images and other data of Canadian citizens.
Clearview noted that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Service were using the startup’s technology and it stopped providing its service to the said organizations in July, 2020.