'Everyone in London should be concerned': Legal expert weighs in on facial recognition technology
LONDON, ONT. -- A leading academic in law and ethics says police forces’ use facial recognition technology is “outrageous” and “inappropriate.”
Sam Trosow, a professor of both law and Information and Media Studies at Western University in London, says he’s concerned that police departments are relying on software like Clearview AI, which scrapes billions of photos from social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to provide a database for law enforcement agencies.
“It is really outrageous and inappropriate for police departments to be using this very controversial and flawed technology without better vetting and public discussion.”
His comments come as Chief Steve Williams conceded that fewer than 12 London Police Service (LPS) officers have tested out Clearview AI, which had been marketed directly to them.
“When this came to our attention we put a stop to all facial recognition software, specifically Clearview. So, like I said, it's a matter of hitting pause and doing some work. It should have been done at the front end.”
But Williams would not rule out the use of facial recognition technologies in the future to aid in police investigations.
He says LPS is following the lead of Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner in developing a policy on emerging technologies like Clearview AI.
“I'd never rule out using facial recognition software but it's that balance of, 'Where is the information coming from, is it obtained ethically, and within the parameters of privacy legislation?' And if so, it may be something to consider. I think there's some value in facial recognition software.”
“It bothers me a lot,” says Trosow, commenting on London police considering the use of Clearview, and in one known instance, already having already used it in an investigation.
“Everyone in London should be concerned about this. This is not a legitimate type of technology, and police should not be using it on enforcement decisions.”
He adds that people in the general public should be “very concerned” about sharing photographs of themselves on social media.
Just last month the RCMP revealed it had been using the software for a number of months for child exploitation investigations. Toronto police have also said they have used the software.