Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Surveillance Tools Need Careful Oversight

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Surveillance Tools Need Careful Oversight

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Surveillance tools need careful oversight


An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Nov. 7:

Your driver's licence is necessary for you to drive, but if a facial-recognition algorithm gets something wrong, you could find yourself dealing with the police. Should you be worried? Yes.

Camera surveillance is ubiquitous, to the point it is no longer viewed as unusual. Alarms are seldom raised when police release videos from surveillance in pursuit of suspects. After all, if they weren't doing something wrong, they should have nothing to worry about. But given new advances in facial-recognition technology, that may be changing.

Some police forces are using facial-recognition software to scan photos of people at public gatherings, or at ATMs or other public places, and then match people against photos in their system -- whether that is a driver's licence or a mug shot. A report from Georgetown University referred to the phenomenon as the "perpetual lineup." That is, instead of a group of suspects called in to be identified in a police lineup as possibly involved in a specific crime, it would be everyone, everywhere, at any time, being measured by an algorithm.

And police don't have to tell people about it afterwards.

The report points out that while the FBI has typically used its database of fingerprint and photo information when investigating crimes, that information was drawn from criminal investigations. But in the 16 U.S. states where the FBI has access to citizens' driver's licences or photo IDs, "the FBI has built a biometric network that primarily includes law-abiding Americans."

Facial-recognition software and its use in police investigations may be inevitable. But that doesn't mean it should be exercised without regulation or respect to people's privacy.

In Canada, there have been attempts to use facial recognition in a similar way. …

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