Friday, October 1, 2010

Toronto Police Using Facial Recognition Software To Find G20 "Most Wanted"

"Civil liberties groups are condemning as a legal “black hole” the Toronto Police Service’s plan to use the banking industry’s facial recognition software to help identify people on a G20 “most wanted” list.

At a news conference Wednesday, Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux released the photos of 10 suspects and said the force intends to work with the Canadian Bankers Association, which owns the software. The investigation would involve scanning thousands of digital images taken during the summit weekend protests, and police expect to release more suspect photos in the weeks to come.

“The concern of Canadian Civil Liberties Association is the lack of experience of the judicial system with facial recognition software and the danger of many people being arrested based on a technology that has not been fully explored and tested in our legal system,” said CCLA general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers."

The Globe and Mail - Identifying G20 suspects using banks’ software a legal risk, police told

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The above incident will probably provide a parallel test-bed for other face matching work being done in regard to "terrorist watch lists", and allow police to start using this software in everyday policing. Which may be fine in clear cut cases of wrong doing, e.g. tapes of a robbery, or cell phone pics of an assault, but... when it starts being used surrounding legitimate public protest - that's where it begins to make me queasy. Not to say the Police are wrong in searching for the people they are in regard to the G20 violence and vandalism, but i have concerns for how far reaching these sorts of techniques can be. We witnessed people who committed no crimes being arrested and detained during the G20. This will give police and government another tool to find and potentially intimidate people who disagree with those in power. That potentiality causes me concern.

You should be concerned about your rights and liberties being pressured as well.

My father was in Parliament at the time of the FLQ crisis. He, along with his colleagues in the NDP Caucus, voted against the war measures act which established martial law across the whole country to combat a problem in Quebec and in part of Ontario. The NDP supported temporary changes to police powers. The public seemed to think martial law was a great idea and punished the NDP at the polls in a subsequent election.

My mother told me the story of a Quebec folk singer who sang nationalist songs who was picked up in the middle of the night from her home and detained. The next morning her two small children (5 and 3 years old, if I recall correctly) went to the neighbour's house because they couldn't find their mother. No-one knew where she was until she was released days/weeks (don't remember) later. She was never charged. Her only crime was that she sang nationalist songs.

This happened in Canada. Under a Trudeau Liberal government. Think about how a Harper government would react... My friends from Chili talked about how they were told that the police and military were only rounding up terrorists and guerillas after the coup. Remember how all that worked out?

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How facial-recognition software could track down G20 suspects
"The cooperation between police and the CBA [Canadian Bankers' Association] evolved after months of pre-summit meetings with banks, downtown merchants and police.

“It was all part of our planning to deal with security issues,” said Drew-Lytle. “We let the police know we had it. We have the licence and training. They said they would like our
help.”

Bank security cameras, or any CCTV monitors, have a “large capacity to store information and retrieve it quickly,” a biometrics expert not involved with the CBA explained."

"The Bay department store uses FaceIt to deter shoplifting. The software is configured to generate alerts when “known offenders” walk into one of its 600 stores. So far, the Bay’s Don Jobe said, the system has set off 22 alerts that have led to six arrests."


So, kids: Anyone think that police and government won't use this to attempt to intimidate protest leaders?

I want to underline my fervent support for police and their work, however, I just know far too many enforcement officers that take preserving the public order a little too far (think mass arrests of people at the G20 subsequently released with no charges).

G20 - Cops Charge Protesters at Queen and Spadina, After "O Canada" from Torontoist on Vimeo.

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For a story on how facial recognition is being tested on other picture databases, read the following:

Article: Plan to match Canadian passport photos with terrorist watch lists in works

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"The federal government is remaining tight-lipped on a project that would allow the use of biometrics as a potential method to detect identity fraud with Canadian passports.

Passport Canada recently completed a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) report to determine if there are privacy issues or risks associated with the Facial Recognition Proof of Concept Project, according to the department. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, the Passport Office introduced the project, which was initiated to investigate whether Facial Recognition (FR) technology could further improve the security of Canadian travel documents.

The Passport Office launched a request for proposal for the contract on July 14, 2006, and closed it earlier this week. A spokesperson from the department said because the RFP process is ongoing that she couldn’t comment too much on the specifics of the project. Following the selection of a vendor, the department will conduct a trial phase at a yet-to-be determined passport office where it will roll out the technology."

itbusiness.ca - Facial recognition project raises privacy fears; A Passport Office initiative that would break down features like eyes and noses into alphanumeric strings has one expert concerned about its accuracy. Will "function creep" be a problem? 8/25/2006

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National Post - Police using facial recognition software to help ID G20 suspects

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The Montreal Gazzette - Facial recognition program used on G20 protest photos; Banking industry software Public has submitted 14,000 pictures to task force of 15 investigators

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In the ITbusiness article above, you read the words "function creep". I will post an article shortly about what such function creep will mean.

It is, in my opinion, ominous.

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