Facial Recognition Briefing #2

by | Aug 17, 2020 | Facial Recognition Technology

Conditions for Lifting a Moratorium on Public Use of Facial Recognition Technology in Canada 

Executive Summary:

This briefing is part two of two on Facial Recognition (FR) Technology. This memo explores the conditions for lifting a federal moratorium. The first briefing addressed how FR works and is used, as well as the implications of a federal moratorium.

  • This briefing outlines the technological, social, policy, and legal conditions required to lift a Canadian moratorium on FR systems.
  • Amidst growing calls for Canada to impose a national moratorium on facial recognition (FR) technology, a holistic approach to both technical and policy conditions is needed.
  • Some private companies, such as Microsoft and Amazon, have enacted moratoriums on selling FR technology to law enforcement, although they do not include limitations on current uses of their services. Clearview AI recently ceased all Canadian operations due to an investigation by the Office of the Privy Commissioner (OPC) regarding the use of its services by both the RCMP and the Toronto Police.
  • Private sector moratoriums are not a solution to addressing the policy implications of FR systems, nor are they adequate fixes for structural technological problems. Instead, industry-led moratoriums are an opportunity for the Canadian government to enact a national moratorium on the technology.
  • A national moratorium would, however, afford governments time to evaluate and develop the necessary conditions FR tech companies and public sector actors should follow.
  • These conditions should include data governance frameworks, accountability measures, privacy protections, and social impact assessments, among others.
    • i. Technological conditions for lifting a moratorium are inseparable from the social and policy considerations detailed below and must always be implemented in tandem for any decision regarding FR use in the public sector (for instance, if bias and accuracy conditions are met, but data protection conditions are not, the moratorium should not be lifted).
    • ii. For this to occur, strengthening existing laws (e.g. PIPEDA) may be required alongside new policies for biometric or FR-specific systems.