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Canada Privacy Watchdog Slams Police Use of Facial Recognition Tool

Federal police broke Canada's privacy laws by using a US company's controversial facial recognition software in hundreds of searches, an independent parliamentary watchdog ruled Thursday.

In a report to lawmakers, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien said Clearview AI's collection of images without consent and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)'s use of that database were illegal.

The software startup has stockpiled more than three billion images grabbed from popular social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, as well as millions of other websites.

It has made its database and software tool available to authorities in Canada and the United States for the purposes of identifying individuals, raising concerns about police surveillance.

"The use of FRT (facial recognition technology) by the RCMP to search through massive repositories of Canadians who are innocent of any suspicion of crime presents a serious violation of privacy," Therrien said in a statement.

"A government institution cannot collect personal information from a third party agent if that third party agent collected the information unlawfully," he said.

The RCMP is no longer using the software and Clearview stopped offering its services in Canada last year in the wake of the commissioner's investigation.

Related: Canada Probe Concludes Clearview AI Breached Privacy Laws

Related: Facial Recognition Company Sued by California Activists

Related: EU Privacy Groups Set Sights on Facial Recognition Firm

Related: States Push Back Against Use of Facial Recognition by Police

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