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Justice

NWT privacy commissioner calls for facial recognition laws

Last modified: May 3, 2022 at 7:55am


The NWT’s information and privacy commissioner has joined counterparts across Canada in calling for legislation to regulate when police can use facial recognition technology. 

In a joint statement on Monday, federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners said that while facial recognition tools can help to solve crimes, locate missing people and support national security, they also raise concern regarding privacy and human rights. 

Use of facial recognition, or FR, by the police “ultimately raises important questions about the kind of society we want to live in,” the commissioners wrote.

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“The prospect of police agencies integrating FR into law enforcement initiatives raises the possibility of serious privacy harms unless appropriate protections are in place. Canadians must be free to participate voluntarily and actively in a modern society without the risk of being routinely identified, tracked and monitored.” 

According to the statement, there are no “clear and comprehensive” laws governing the use of facial recognition by law enforcement in Canada. Instead, there is a “patchwork of laws” that “would take years to resolve before the courts.” 

“The current regulatory framework for the use of facial recognition is insufficient to address the risks associated with the technology and must be clarified to protect rights,” federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a statement.

Therrien and the privacy commissioners for Quebec and Ontario testified on Monday before a House of Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics. They recommended either the creation of a separate law governing facial recognition or changes to existing privacy laws.

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The commissioners say laws should include “clear no-go zones,” independent oversight of facial recognition initiatives, and privacy rights and protections.

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