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Commissioner's Full Statement on Clearview AI Investigation

February 3, 2021

Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton made this statement during the news conference announcing the findings of the Clearview AI joint investigation:

Good morning and thank you for being here with us today.

My office reviewed our first privacy impact assessment on facial recognition more than 15 years ago, which related to a project by the Government of Alberta to use the technology for verifying identity and preventing fraud when issuing driver’s licences. Since that time, however, use of this technology has increased exponentially, in both the public and private sectors.

As it does, significant issues around accuracy, automated decision making, proportionality and ethics persist, in addition to privacy concerns.

Some jurisdictions, like Quebec, have their own biometrics legislation guiding the use of facial recognition. Other jurisdictions have adopted moratoria on certain uses of the technology. In 2019, for example, the City of San Francisco banned the use of facial recognition by police services and other public agencies. Meanwhile, the federal ETHI parliamentary committee committed in February 2020 to study the topic.

Our joint investigation into Clearview AI shows that in Alberta we also need to be discussing acceptable uses and regulation of facial recognition. Regulation would not only assist in upholding privacy rights, it would provide much needed certainty to all organizations thinking about using or developing the technology.

In my view, Alberta’s legislature should be reviewing and assessing the use of this technology, and others, when considering amendments to Alberta’s public and private sector privacy laws, or the need for new laws or regulations.

In closing, I would like to thank my colleagues in British Columbia, Quebec and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for their collaboration on this investigation.

Thank you.