RCMP British Colombia facial recognition procurement opacity
Occurred: April 2021
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police of British Columbia has secretly subscribed to a facial recognition service that claims to help identify terrorists, according to The Tyee.
Signed in 2016, the deal enabled RCMP to access a 700,000-image database created by US-based IntelCenter using facial recognition developed by Morpho, which was later bought by and renamed as IDEMIA.
The database appeared to be at least partially made up of images scraped from social media platforms, according to Kate Robertson of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab - similar to Clearview AI, also covertly used by RCMP.
In addition to hiding the deal from the public, emails obtained by The Tyee show the RCMP broke its own rules by not alerting senior officers of the sole-sourced contract, and that it avoided labelling the software with terms that might trigger more oversight, such as ‘facial recognition’ or ‘biometric.’
Privacy and civil rights experts are concerned facial recognition systems can produce false positives with particular bias against racialised individuals and can unlawfully incriminate Canadians and foreigners. It is unclear how the images are harvested, raising a range of concerns about privacy and accuracy, they say.
The RCMP in British Colombia told The Tyee it bought the software to test its feasibility. The contract came to an end in 2019.
House of Commons, Canada (2022). FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY AND THE GROWING POWER OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (pdf)
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (2022). Submission to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ Review of the RCMP’s Federal Policing Mandate (pdf)
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Published: January 2023
Last updated: August 2023