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TPS puts end to use of controversial facial recognition technology

Last Updated Feb 13, 2020 at 6:06 pm EST

Toronto Police say some of their officers, who have been using controversial facial recognition technology to track down suspects for several months, have been ordered to stop using the software.

Police Chief Mark Saunders was unaware any of his officers were using the technology and ordered its use to be ended immediately when he found out.

Clearview A.I. is a facial recognition company that harvests images by scraping social media sites and other places and then sells access to its database to law enforcement agencies.

From just a single photo, the software can pull up a person’s name, address, phone number, address or occupation.

It has come under fire from several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Venmo and YouTube, who all demanded the company stop harvesting user images to identify the people in them.

On its website, Clearview says their technology has helped law enforcement track down hundreds of criminals.

Toronto police spokesperson Meghan Gray confirm their officers began using Clearview in October of 2019 “with the intent of informally testing this new and evolving technology.” The order to cease using the software was given on Feb. 5, 2020.

Gray added they have also requested the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Crown Attorney’s office work with them to review the technology and “its appropriateness as an investigative tool.”

With files from The Canadian Press