Hamilton police have tried controversial facial recognition app Clearview AI, says deputy chief

A revolutionary technology that boasts it has the ability “to help solve the hardest crimes” is in the hands of the Hamilton Police Service.

Deputy Chief of Police Frank Bergen says the force is not using Clearview AI nor do they have the intention of using it in the near future, but he says the service will continue to explore any technology that helps with investigations.

U.S. based Clearview AI — which says it has licensed facial recognition tech to hundreds of law enforcement agencies — has come under fire from politicians and privacy watchdogs across North America who claim it could end anonymity for the public, according to a recent  New York Times article.

Bergen told Global News that he’s aware of the issues surrounding Clearview AI, but wants to assure the public that Hamilton police do not have a plan for the tool.


“Certainly the topic of Clearview Artificial Intelligence has gotten a lot of attention and we understand that,” said Bergen

“We want to assure the public at large that we have not and nor do we have any intention this time to be using this software or this app.”

Hamilton police say they obtained a keycode for the technology from Clearview’s general marketing booth during a policing conference in the fall of 2019.

Bergen says the app simply uses facial recognition to find matches for pictures of unknown people by scanning social media posts.

“It’s a tool that you would, from a policing perspective, try to say, ‘hey, how could I throw a face in there just to see whether or not I get a hit?’”

An unspecified number of officers did use the technology, according to the deputy chief, with the intent of “looking at emerging technology and leveraging those opportunities.”

But Bergen insists the officers did nothing wrong.

“No, they have not breached policy. This is a stand-alone access key code that was not attached to our actual operating system.”

Global News reached out to four other police services near the Hamilton area and asked if they have used Clearview AI.

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