Cornwall police officers dabbled in facial recognition software; Clearview AI to leave Canadian market

Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Facing an investigation by Canada’s privacy commission, the U.S. company behind a controversial facial recognition software program has pulled out of Canada.

Clearview AI announced last month that it would indefinitely suspend its contract with the RCMP, its last remaining client in Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said in a statement.

But an ongoing issue is personal data Clearview AI already has and its future deletion, which is the subject of ongoing investigations by privacy protection authorities for Canada, Alberta, B.C., and Quebec. As well, there’s an open investigation into the RCMP’s use of the technology.

The Cornwall Police Service was among a number of Ontario police forces identified as using the software after an investigation by the Toronto Star, which prompted the privacy commissioner to look into the matter.

In an earlier interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman said two officers had tried out 30-day free trial versions of the software they got at a child exploitation conference in the fall of 2019.

“One of the officers used it strictly on internal facial recognition. He tested it on some of our employees. It was used in another investigation that subsequently revealed no information that was of assistance to the investigation,” Aikman explained.

The chief added that its use didn’t jeopardize any investigation and they plan to follow the direction of the privacy commissioner.

Deputy Chief Shawna Spowart contacted the privacy commissioner to explain the force’s software use, Aikman said.