On December 14, 2021, the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the Québec Commission d’accès à l’information (collectively, the Privacy Commissioners) issued binding orders to Clearview AI to comply with recommendations made earlier this year following a joint investigation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) into the company’s use of facial recognition technology.

Clearview AI scraped more than three billion images from publicly accessible online sources to create a databank and corresponding biometric identifiers for its clients, such as law enforcement agencies, to use for the purpose of identifying unknown individuals by matching photographs to images in the databank.

In February 2021, the joint investigation found that Clearview AI's facial recognition technology resulted in mass surveillance of Canadians and violated federal and provincial laws governing personal information, as previously reported by the E-TIPS® Newsletter here. While Clearview AI stopped offering its services in Canada during the joint investigation, it rejected the recommendation to cease the collection and use of Canadians' data or delete previously collected images and biometric facial arrays in Canada. Clearview AI responded to the Privacy Commissioners stating that it was “simply not possible” to identify whether individuals in photographs were in Canada at the time the image was taken or whether they are Canadian citizens or residents.

The Privacy Commissioners issued legally binding orders requiring Clearview AI to:

  • cease offering its facial recognition services in the three provinces;
  • cease the collection, use, and disclosure of images and biometric facial arrays collected from individuals in the three provinces without consent; and
  • delete images and biometric facial arrays that have been collected from individuals in the three provinces.

"We welcome these important actions taken by our provincial counterparts", the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said in a statement. He further noted that these orders “highlight once again significant shortcomings with the federal private sector privacy law” as the OPC lacks order-making powers similar to the three provinces.

The order of the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner is available here.

The order of the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner is available here.

The order of the Quebec Commission d’accès à l’information is available here in French only.

Clearview AI may apply for judicial review of these orders.

Summary By: Anna Troshchynsky


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