‘An Affront to People’ Privateness Rights’: Canada’s Rising On-line Discomfort

During a week of anger, confusion, accusations and disappointments over delays in vaccinating with Covid-19, it would not be surprising to miss other news from Canada unrelated to the pandemic.

[Read: The Left’s Vaccine Problem]

These included the results of an investigation by the Canadian Data Protection Commissioner and some of his colleagues in the province into Clearview AI’s facial recognition software, which enables users to compare faces with three billion photos taken from social media accounts and other online postings.

“What Clearview is doing is mass surveillance and it’s illegal,” said Daniel Therrien, the federal commissioner, at a press conference Wednesday. “It is a violation of the privacy rights of individuals and widespread harm to all members of society who are constantly in a police line-up.”

[Read: Clearview AI’s Facial Recognition App Called Illegal in Canada]

Mr Therrien and his fellow Commissioners have sent Clearview AI a formal letter demanding that they stop selling facial recognition services in Canada, stop scraping Canadians’ faces from the internet, and delete the images already in their collection.

The investigation in Canada was triggered by a report published just over a year ago by my colleague Kashmir Hill, which first revealed the app and its use by law enforcement agencies.

[Read: The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It]

Her article broke the wall of secrecy surrounding the company founded by Hoan Ton-That, an Australian iPhone developer and former model. His supporters include Richard Schwartz – a former adjutant to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was Mayor of New York – and Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir.

The Canadian investigation found that dozens of Canadian law enforcement agencies and organizations across the country have used the app, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Federal Commissioner is conducting a separate investigation into the use of the technology by the Mounties.

The data protection officers determined that Clearview AI is violating important laws that require it to obtain consent to use the photos it collects in its database.

In its submissions to the investigation, Clearview AI alleged that it needed no more consent than Google to crawl the internet to populate its search engine.

Even so, Clearview AI left the Canadian market last summer. As an American company, it refused to let Canada’s laws apply to its business.

“This is a simple matter of public information and who has access to it and why,” Ton-That told The Times, adding that he was interested in bringing the data protection officer to justice.

Currently, the data protection commissioners have no power to punish or reprimand the company, but a bill in parliament to update data protection laws would allow the federal commissioner to impose fines of Canadian $ 25 million, or 5 percent of a company’s gross sales.

More internet laws are in the pipeline that may touch on another subject that Ms. Hill wrote about this week. She shared the nightmarish stories of several Canadians struggling to get false postings online describing them as child molesters, pedophiles, thieves and scammers. Although they have been successful at times, the outrageous lies have not stopped.

[Read: A Vast Web of Vengeance]

In several recent interviews, Steven Guilbeault, the Minister for Heritage of Canada and author of a recent book on artificial intelligence, stated that the government intends to establish a regulator for Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube and all other online platforms as well as one create “Canadian Code of Conduct.”

We’ll have to wait for the details, but it seems the regulator would be able to order the swift removal of any material it deems illegal or hateful. this promotes radicalization; or that encourages or is terrorist propaganda. In Mindgeek, the Montreal-based pornography conglomerate owned by Pornhub, the new regulator appears most likely to have the authority to oversee sexually exploitative material as well.

If you missed it in December, our opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof investigated Pornhub and found that his website had been hit by rape videos. It monetizes child rape, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women suffocated in plastic bags. “

The House of Commons Ethics Committee is investigating Pornhub.

Whatever Mr Guilbeault’s envisioning, one thing is already clear from efforts in Australia and elsewhere: the corporate giants of the Internet will not accept no struggle to limit their powers.

  • Murray Sinclair, the former judge who reshaped the discussion between Indians and Canadians, left the Senate early. When we spoke for a profile, Mr. Sinclair discussed a time of doubt and frustration when he nearly gave up the law to start carpentry.

  • Peter Nygard will not be released on bail as he awaits an extradition hearing over sex trafficking and other charges in the United States. Justice Shawn Greenberg said she had no confidence the 79-year-old multimillionaire would bail out to avoid contacting witnesses in the action against him.

  • Canada was the first country to officially declare the Proud Boys a terrorist organization. Among other things, the action makes it a crime to support or fund the group, including buying clothing and other promotional items from the group that played a prominent role in the storming of the United States Capitol last month.

  • A group of large Canadian companies has launched a rapid testing program for Covid-19 to protect their 350,000 employees and create a playbook for safe reopening during the pandemic. However, some experts want the tests to be used in schools and nursing homes.

Ian Austen is from Windsor, Ontario. He trained in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has been reporting on Canada for the New York Times for 16 years. Follow him on Twitter @ianrausten.

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