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October 27, 2020

Facial recognition and artificial intelligence: International privacy guardians call for more protection and accountability

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and its international counterparts are calling for stronger privacy protections and greater accountability in the development and use of facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien and fellow members of the Global Privacy Assembly made the calls for action in resolutions adopted at the organization’s 2020 closed session, held online October 13-15, 2020.

The resolutions serve to highlight the importance of legal frameworks that allow technologies to produce benefits in the public interest while also preserving the fundamental right to privacy. This was the over-arching theme of Commissioner Therrien’s latest Annual Report to Parliament.

Facial recognition technology

Co-sponsored by the OPC, the resolution on facial recognition technology acknowledges that this technology can benefit security and public safety. However, it asserts that facial recognition can erode data protection, privacy and human rights because it is highly intrusive and enables widespread surveillance that can produce inaccurate results.

The resolution also calls on data protection authorities to work together to develop principles and expectations that strengthen data protection and ensure privacy by design in the development of innovative uses of this technology.

Artificial intelligence systems

The OPC also co-sponsored a resolution on the development and use of AI systems that urges organizations developing or using them to ensure human accountability for AI systems and address adverse impacts on human rights. The resolution encourages governments to amend personal data protection laws to make clear legal obligations for accountability in the development and use of AI.

It also calls on governments, public authorities and other stakeholders to work with data protection authorities to ensure legal compliance, accountability and ethics in the development and use of AI systems.

The OPC co-sponsored three other resolutions:

About the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as a guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two laws for the protection of personal information: the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Canada’s federal private sector privacy law.

For more information, please contact:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

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