Police to use facial recognition in Brampton and Mississauga investigations


Published May 27, 2024 at 3:38 pm

facial recognition peel police

Peel Regional Police will use facial recognition technology in criminal investigations in Brampton and Mississauga.

The new investigative tool, acquired through a partnership with York Regional Police, will significantly increase efficiency in criminal investigations, enhance collaboration between policing services and reduce costs, Peel Regional Police said in a press release today (May 27).

The facial recognition technology will automate components of the current image comparison process.

The images in Peel Regional Police’s existing mugshot database have been collected and stored, in strict accordance with the Identification of Criminals Act, during or following a criminal investigation, police said.

The technology will not be used to scan or compare against digital footage, including live video, from any other source, and all responses will be reviewed, analyzed and confirmed by trained experts.

“The new system will scan and compare against lawfully-collected digital evidence currently stored in our databases,” said Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich. “This new technology will not only support our criminal investigations greatly, but it will enable us to run mugshot searches faster with less human error, increasing safety in Peel Region.”

The new technology comes from Idemia, which has been recognized as a leader in facial recognition technology, police said.

Peel police said they are starting to use the technology following consultations with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, advisory committees and the community.

Despite the intended benefits of facial recognition systems, the technology raises significant legal, privacy, and ethical challenges given its potential to provide biased or inaccurate results and undermine rights and freedoms, according to a 2024 report from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

Jurisdictions around the world continue to struggle with how to regulate its use, the report states.

The technology collects and processes sensitive personal information to identify or verify an individual’s identity, the report states. A person’s facial features, such as the width of the nose, the length of the jawline, and the distance between the eyes are collected and algorithms turn facial features into a faceprint of an individual.

A facial recognition system can then compare two faceprints.

Using facial recognition in mugshot databases can improve the police’s ability to identify unknown individuals by improving the speed and scale of identification, the report finds.

But there are risks of gender and race-related bias and inaccuracy, system or human errors that can lead to individual consequences, such as undue or excessive scrutiny or suspicion, or being subject to wrongful detention, arrests, or charges, and over-policing of low-income, Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities.

The report outlines considerations for police including setting standards for pixel density, lighting, percentage of face that is visible, and any other factor that is likely to impact the accuracy of facial recognition.

Police services must also have a “clearly defined scope and purpose will help ensure that the privacy principles of reasonableness, necessity, and proportionality will operate to reduce privacy risks.”

See the full Information and Privacy Commissioner report here.

Photo: Ana Daza

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