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Guidelines for Use of Facial Recognition by Ontario Police

Client Updates / Mar 03, 2024

Written by Haim Ravia and Dotan Hammer

Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) introduced comprehensive guidelines for the ethical and lawful application of biometric facial recognition technologies and the management of mugshot databases by police forces. This initiative aims to bridge the existing regulatory gap highlighted by the ongoing debate surrounding the collection of biometric information by law enforcement agencies across Canada. Canada lacks an explicit legal framework to govern the deployment of facial recognition technologies and the management of associated image databases.

The guidelines emphasize the need to:

  • Ensure facial recognition (FR) programs have a legitimate law enforcement purpose, consider privacy impacts, and comply with privacy laws.
  • Develop principles that respect human rights, and privacy, and ensure transparency, necessity, and proportionality in FR use.
  • Address biases in arrest records and establish appropriate retention and destruction policies.
  • Conduct privacy impact assessments to identify and mitigate privacy risks, ensuring FR programs have adequate safeguards.
  • Define and limit the program’s scope to necessary and proportionate uses for serious offense investigations.
  • Engage the public early, especially affected communities, to discuss privacy and equity concerns.
  • Maintain openness about FR program plans, policies, and procedures to build public trust.
  • Implement time-limited pilot programs to test effectiveness and make adjustments based on findings before full implementation.

Furthermore, the guidelines detail the specifics of image quality maintenance, storage protocols, and the continuous use of photographs, along with establishing norms for personal information disclosure and the implementation of robust data security measures. Additionally, the provisions strengthen the rights of citizens concerning access, amendment, and deletion of their personal data, reinforcing the commitment to safeguarding privacy and human rights within the scope of facial recognition and mugshot database programs.

Click here to read the Facial Recognition Guidance for Police in Ontario.