The facial recognition app Clearview AI is not welcome in Canada and the company that developed it should delete Canadians’ faces from its database, the country’s privacy commissioner said on Wednesday.
“What Clearview does is mass surveillance, and it is illegal,” Commissioner Daniel Therrien said at a news conference. He forcefully denounced the company as putting all of society “continually in a police lineup.” Though the Canadian government does not have legal authority to enforce photo removal, the position — the strongest one an individual country has taken against the company — was clear: “This is completely unacceptable.”
Clearview scraped more than three billion photos from social media networks and other public websites in order to build a facial recognition app that is now used by over 2,400 U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to the company. When an officer runs a search, the app provides links to sites on the web where the person’s face has appeared. The scope of the company’s reach and law enforcement application was first reported by The New York Times in January 2020.
This is absolutely the correct response to Clearview AI. It would be nice to see more governments denounce companies like Clearview AI. This kind of facial recognition is only going to become more difficult to remove as it becomes more ubiquitous, especially as law enforcement begins to use it more often. And facial recognition is still really bad at identifying Black people.