Watchdog eyes use of facial recognition in riot probe
ICBC's use of facial recognition software may violate Canada's privacy laws, according to B.C.'s privacy watchdog.
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of B.C. is investigating ICBC's offer to use facial recognition technology to help police identify those involved in criminal activity during the Stanley Cup riot, according to a release issued Friday.
Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is leading the investigation.
"There is a fine balance to be struck in weighing a citizen's privacy interests and the use of personal information for law enforcement," Denham said. "This balancing of interests must be undertaken within the confines of existing law."
Everyone with a B.C. driver's licence is in ICBC's photo databank. Using facial recognition technology, ICBC would be able to match photos of people captured on camera at the riots to their licences.
ICBC has said it will only disclose facial recognition results if investigators present them with a court order or warrant, but the Crown corporation has not received any requests or images from the Vancouver Police Department.
Vincent Gogolek, director of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said there are many troubling questions about the technology for and ICBC's willingness to team up with police.
"We're not talking about murders here or a serial killer that they can't find and they're just using anything to desperately get a hold of somebody like that. We're talking about property crime for the most part – assaults. Very disturbing especially in the context of a riot, but, again, is it really worth turning the entire province into a permanent line-up of mug shots?" he told CTV News.
He wants to know how ICBC got the technology in the first place, why they got it, and why they are volunteering their services to police when they have a legal duty to protect personal information.
Facial recognition technology use at ICBC was originally developed to combat identity theft and fraud.