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Facial recognition technology will follow privacy laws: Edmonton police
Published Wednesday, February 19, 2020 12:43PM MST Last Updated Wednesday, February 19, 2020 3:37PM MST
EDMONTON -- Attempting to quell privacy concerns, Edmonton police say facial recognition software that they intend to use to identify criminals will follow privacy laws.
Informatics Division Supt. Warren Driechel revealed new details about the proposed technology Wednesday, though the department has not implemented facial recognition yet.
Driechel said the software will take images or videos obtained during criminal investigations and compare to a database of official records to help identify suspects.
The database only contains mugshots of suspects that have already been obtained for previous charges.
"We are not just using this technology or using facial recognition to go out and look at the general open source information that's out there," said Driechel, adding that Facebook would be an example of open source information.
He said the technology will remove a massive burden from investigators' shoulders.
"A lot of our investigations now, some form of video is obtained during it. It’s just becoming almost overwhelming to the point of being able to manage that," said Driechel.
Police are still in talks with the vendor of the technology.
Privacy concerns have arisen over the project, and the province's privacy commissioner has requested a privacy impact assessment from EPS.
"Many new artificial intelligence or machine learning technologies, such as facial recognition software, have privacy and human rights implications," said a spokesman for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta.
"These technologies often combine massive personal data sets with computing technology to make decisions about or for individuals.
Driechel said any information obtained by facial recognition won't be visible to all EPS officers, only a small group trained in use.
A trained facial recognition technician will view potential match results and police will then decide whether to act on them.
"Ultimately the new technology will expedite the process that we have for identifying a suspect involved in a criminal offence who may not be identifiable through other means," he said.
EPS is still seeking guidance from legal advisors and looking at what other police stations are doing with such technology.