The Dangers of Facial Recognition

A Neighbourhood Issue


Facial recognition is a technology that can identify a person from an image or a video frame. [1] This technology is used every day from using filters on SnapChat, unlocking your phone with your face, and security services used within police and government departments. While it seems harmless to use this technology for apps like SnapChat, questions concerning privacy violations and misuse of this technology may arise.  

Ethical Issues 

There have been some concerns about this technology due to the lack of federal regulations. The technology’s accuracy as well as biases could give false information. For instance, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has noted that there is a higher rate of false positives when the technology attempts to identify black women. This is especially concerning because there may be false accusations for crimes as a consequence of false positives. [2] 

Black man's face being scanned

Local issue  

Although this may feel like it’s only a problem in other countries, the reality is that the concerns surrounding facial recognition technology is also a local issue.  

Clearview AI, a powerful facial recognition tool, works by collecting billions of images from the internet and using them to identify people. It provides information such as phone numbers, address, and occupation. Former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoikian stated that Clearview AI has gathered 3.9 billion facial images from public social media without consent or notice. She also acknowledged that one of the biggest dangers is its low accuracy [3].  

Earlier this year, Windsor and Toronto police have both admitted to using Clearview AI. Although the police departments from both cities have recently declared that their use of this technology has halted, the controversy is still high. This is a controversial topic because in January 2020, Toronto police had falsely denied using the facial recognition tool despite evidence coming to light that they were indeed using this technology since October 2019. Chief Saunders claims to have only become aware of its use on February 5 2020, and halted its use immediately. [3].  


Facial recognition is a technology that is becoming more and more common throughout government agencies. Although the Toronto and Windsor police departments have stopped using Clearview AI, it is not confirmed whether they have distanced themselves from all use of facial recognition tools. This is a danger to the public, especially due to high rate of false positives that occur when attempting to identify black women. If a technology is claiming you are someone that you aren’t, how do you prove your identity? 


[1] Techopedia. (2020, March 21). What is Facial Recognition? - Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved from 

[2] NIST. (2020, May 18). NIST Study Evaluates Effects of Race, Age, Sex on Face Recognition Software. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from 

[3] CBC News. (2020, February 15). Toronto police admit using secretive facial recognition technology Clearview AI | CBC News. Retrieved July 13, 2020, from