Toronto Police say facial recognition technology was ‘lawfully obtained’

Toronto Police say they obtained their facial recognition system lawfully during a Toronto Police Board meeting on May 30th.

Further, Toronto Police state that the system was not created in secret as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association claims.

In reference to the facial recognition system, Deputy Chief James Ramer says the Toronto Police “have a database that has been lawfully obtained, pursuant to the Criminal Act.”

Police say they filed a Privacy Impact Assessment to the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office in October of 2017.

Deputy Chief Ramer stated that the facial recognition system is not random and is instead very specific. Ramer says that it is used for the compassion of victims of crimes who don’t have to look through books of people in the mugshot database because this process is now eliminated through the use of facial recognition.

Michael Bryant from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association stated at the meeting that “Toronto Police Service ought to justify, for its every deployment of FRT: why, when and how it is necessary and proportionate in the circumstances to turn everyone in the database into walking ID cards.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition for the time being.

The association says the system’s “false-positive rate renders it staggeringly, dangerously inaccurate; it is not ready for primetime in Toronto.”

In a report documenting Bryant’s case against the use of facial recognition, he wrote that it is “illegal, dangerously inaccurate, unregulated, initially deployed by TorontoPolice Service (“TPS”) by stealth, without notice or authorization.” 

At the board meeting, Staff Inspector Stephen Harris claimed that “it wasn’t private knowledge, it wasn’t secretive.”

The discussion at the board meeting comes after reports that the Toronto Police have been using facial recognition for over a year. Federal MPs also commented on the potential for regulations around facial recognition and its use following San Francisco’s facial recognition ban.

However, at the board meeting, Inspector Harris claimed that “unlike San Francisco, we’re not scanning crowds.”

Toronto Police say the system is used for efficiency and it is not necessarily something new, as it was a process that was done manually in the past.

When asked if the commissioner’s office raised any issues with the police about the technology, Inspector Harris replied with “not at all.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has said that Toronto Police should propose standards, checks and balances upon the use of facial recognition.

Image credit: YouTube (Screenshot)

Source: Toronto Police Board, Canadian Civil Liberties Association