Good morning, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for inviting me here today and for undertaking this important work on facial recognition.
Like all technologies, FRT can, if used responsibly, offer significant benefits to society. However, it can also be extremely intrusive, enable widespread surveillance, provide biased results and erode human rights, including the right to participate freely, without surveillance, in democratic life. It is different from other technologies in that it relies on biometrics, permanent characteristics that, contrary to a password, cannot be changed. It greatly reduces personal autonomy, including the control individuals should have over their personal information. Its use encompasses the public and the private sectors, sometimes for compelling purposes like the investigation of serious crimes or proving one's identity, sometimes for convenience.
The scope of your study is vast. In the time I have available, I will focus on the use of FRT in a law enforcement context. When we last spoke, my office had completed its investigation into Clearview AI, a private sector platform that we and our colleagues in Quebec, B.C. and Alberta found was involved in mass surveillance.
Since then, my office has examined the RCMP's use of Clearview AI's technology. We found that the RCMP did not take measures to verify the legality of Clearview AI's collection of personal information, and lacked any system to ensure that new technologies were deployed lawfully. Ultimately, we determined the RCMP's use of Clearview AI to be unlawful, since it relied on the illegal collection and use of facial images by its business partner.
Building on these findings, we worked with fellow privacy commissioners across Canada to develop joint guidance for police use of facial recognition. This guidance is meant to assist police in ensuring that any use of the technology complies with the law, minimizes risks and respects privacy rights. We are releasing the final version of the guidance today.
As part of this work, we launched a national public consultation on police use of facial recognition technology. During this consultation, we heard consistently that the current laws regulating the use of facial recognition did not offer sufficient protection against the risks associated with the technology. While all stakeholders we consulted agreed that the law must be clarified, there was no consensus on the content of a new law. Legislators will therefore have to decide how to reconcile various interests.
Following this consultation, fellow provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and I believe that the preferred approach should be to adopt a legislative framework based on four key elements, which we have outlined in a joint statement we're issuing today.
First, we recommend that the law clearly and explicitly define the purposes for which police would be authorized to use facial recognition technology and that it prohibit other uses. Authorized purposes should be compelling and proportionate to the very high risks of the technology.
Second, since it is not realistic for the law to anticipate all circumstances, it is important, in addition to limitations on authorized purposes, that the law also require police use of facial recognition to be both necessary and proportionate for any given deployment of the technology.
Third, we recommend that police use of facial recognition should be subject to strong, independent oversight. Oversight should include proactive engagement measures such as privacy impact assessments, or PIAs; program level authorization or advance notification before use; and powers to audit and make orders.
Finally, we recommend that appropriate privacy protections be put in place to mitigate risks to individuals, including measures addressing accuracy, retention and transparency in facial recognition initiatives.
I encourage you to consider our recommendations as you complete your study of this important issue.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today; I look forward to your questions.
I will be pleased to answer your questions following my colleagues' statements.