Calgary police now admit 2 officers used controversial Clearview AI facial-recognition software

After previously denying they had used a controversial facial-recognition app that harvested billions of personal photos from social media, Calgary police now say some officers did, in fact, use the Clearview AI software.

“The Calgary Police Service does not use Clearview AI in any official capacity,” police said in a written statement sent to CBC News on Friday afternoon.

“However, it has come to our attention that two CPS officers had tested the system to determine any potential investigative use.”

That differs from what a police service spokesperson told CBC News earlier in February, who said, at the time: “We do not use Clearview AI.”

Back in 2014, Calgary police became the first police agency in Canada to use facial-recognition technology, launching a system designed by NEC Corporation of America that relied on a database of hundreds of thousands of mugshots of people who had been arrested.

The CPS had previously told CBC News that was the only facial-recognition system they used, noting it only “compares CCTV suspect photos to our mugshot database.”

The Clearview AI software, by contrast, relies on a database of photos scraped from the Internet, including many images of people who have never been arrested.

Other agencies denied, then admitted using app

Toronto police also initially denied using Clearview AI and then later revealed that some officers had indeed used the American-made app that has sparked international controversy.

Edmonton police said Friday it had launched an internal investigation into the use of the software by three “fairly senior” officers.

Numerous other police agencies across Canada have since said some of their officers have used the software.

Police agencies in New Jersey have been banned from using the software and Canada’s federal privacy watchdog, along with several of its provincial counterparts, are investigating whether the software maker’s practices comply with Canadian privacy laws.

Calgary police say one the two officers who used Clearview AI still works for the service while the other has been “seconded to another agency.”

“Neither officer used the software in any active investigations and both ceased use following the testing,” the CPS said in its statement.

“Both have been told to delete any active user accounts.”