Feds seek dismissal of planned class action lawsuit against RCMP over facial recognition tool

In a February 2021 report, federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and three provincial counterparts said the New York-based company’s removal of billions of images of people from the internet was a gross violation of the right to privacy. the privacy of Canadians.

Last June, Therrien discovered that the RCMP had broken the law by using Clearview AI software to collect personal information.

The Privacy Commissioner found that the RCMP conducted 521 searches through paid and trial user accounts with Clearview from October 2019 to July 2020.

“In the absence of any evidence that the RCMP conducted these searches and seizures pursuant to lawful authority, the searches and seizures are presumed to be unreasonable,” Doan argued in a court brief.

Therrien concluded that the RCMP accessed images of Canadians from Clearview AI as part of their work.

The Gendarmerie has publicly stated that the force uses the company’s technology only in a limited way, primarily to identify, locate and rescue child victims of online sexual abuse.

However, the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation found that the RCMP had failed to adequately report the vast majority of the searches it had conducted.

In the court filing, federal attorneys say the use of Clearview helped the RCMP identify and locate three child victims. Other uses included searching for a wanted fugitive and testing the app with images of law enforcement officers, altered images of an American celebrity, or media images of missing persons.

Clearview AI ceased offering its services in Canada on July 6, 2020.

Doan’s proposed class action says the RCMP became a customer of Clearview AI even though the company’s services involved a “large-scale invasion of the privacy of residents and citizens of Canada,” as well as a violation copyright.

Doan is passionate about photography and takes photos of herself and others, posting a significant number on her own website and online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, the filing said.

She alleges that her “personal biometric information” and photos were collected, copied, reproduced, stored or used by Clearview without her knowledge or consent.

The class action would cover people in Canada whose images are in the Clearview AI database and those who own the copyright and moral rights to the photos.

He is seeking a court order directing the RCMP to destroy all Clearview documents and information in response to database searches involving residents of Canada.

In their filing, federal attorneys note that Doan obtained confirmation from Clearview that as of July 10, 2020, the company had identified seven separate images of her on the Internet. These appear to come from his Instagram and Twitter accounts, his business website, and two unrelated sources.

“Whether we are talking about Google, Facebook, Instagram, Clearview or a telephone directory, access to a database or a public search engine does not create liability towards any person whose information is contained therein, regardless of whether, how or what information was actually accessed,” the federal submission reads.

Doan is not alleging that the RCMP actually saw, let alone copied, even a single photo of her or taken by her in Clearview, government lawyers say.

“His case is based on the idea that this fact does not matter. It is important. In the absence of any material fact that the defendant sought out, viewed or copied information relating to the plaintiff, it is an illusion to speak of violations of her rights or causation,” the federal filing states.

“Indeed, the plaintiff did not (and could not) allege that she suffered harm of any kind.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 13, 2022.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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