City of Powell River responds to facial recognition technology letters

Submissions urge council to place moratorium on use

City of Powell River Council received three letters from residents about the use of facial recognition technology.

At the April 2 city council meeting, it was revealed that the technology is not in use by the City of Powell River.

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Councillor Maggie Hathaway said the city should respond to the three letter writers indicating that there is no facial recognition equipment used in Powell River that the city owns.

Corporate officer Chris Jackson said the city has video surveillance in some locations for security reasons but there is no facial recognition software to identify people who would show up on the system.

“In fact, we don’t have a database, either, that would correlate what someone looked like,” said Jackson. “There is no operational need, there’s no requirement, we don’t do it and I can’t see us ever having a need.”

Jackson said most people are probably subject to facial recognition if they have a Facebook account.

“You can see it on Facebook all of the time, with photographs, and they put the squares and rectangles around people’s faces and they cross-reference who that face is to someone else,” said Jackson. “That’s facial recognition and it’s on Facebook. That’s not the City of Powell River using any sort of that facial recognition, but it is in the private sector public domain.”

The three letters were form letters asking the city to place a moratorium on the use and development of facial recognition technology by law enforcement and other government agencies in the community within the city’s authority.

The letters stated that facial recognition is invasive, biased and unreliable. Its use constituted mass, suspicion-less, warrantless surveillance and is not compatible with basic privacy and civil rights, the letters stated.

“Canada’s federal privacy laws are out of date and do not specifically address biometric surveillance issues,” one letter stated. “This unregulated environment means that any use of facial recognition technology comes without oversight, accountability or transparency for people in Canada.”

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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