Next-generation Law Enforcement

Breaking barriers: Intimate partner violence information sharing guide

In August 2022, the Office of the Chief Coroner provided the IPC with the jury recommendations of an inquest into the murders of three women in rural eastern Ontario due to intimate partner violence (IPV). Recommendation 78 called on the IPC to work with IPV professionals to develop a plain language guide to empower practitioners to make informed decisions about privacy, confidentiality, and public safety. We readily agreed to carry out this critically important work, in consultation with partners across the IPV ecosystem, including the justice sector, the child and family services sector, the health care sector, and IPV service providers. Released in 2024, the guide sets out an approach for considering when to share relevant information with those who need it in a timely manner and clarify that Ontario's privacy laws are not a barrier to the lawful sharing of information where an individual is at risk of serious harm.

Privacy Futures Project: Strategic foresight into investigative genetic genealogy 

In 2023, the IPC held its first Privacy Futures Project on investigative genetic genealogy (IGG). We devoted significant effort to deepen our understanding of IGG tools, recognizing the potential privacy implications for individuals and their biological family members. Adopting a strategic foresight methodology, we envisioned multiple plausible futures to anticipate how IGG tools might evolve and be used in different ways, particularly in conjunction with other emerging surveillance technologies. This approach is helping us prepare for various scenarios, develop strategies to tackle potential challenges, and craft future regulatory pathways that could lead us towards a more desirable future. A future where Ontarians could reap the benefits of this technology to enhance public safety while also maintaining confidence that their privacy and other human rights will be respected.   

This proactive approach involved hosting strategic foresight events, bringing together a broad range of perspectives from government policymakers, regulators, law enforcement, forensic scientists, genetic genealogists, academics, civil society, bioethicists, and First Nations groups.  

Strategic foresight enables us to anticipate and respond to technological shifts by actively shaping and guiding their evolution to ensure both innovation and privacy are carefully considered before deployment. Working in this way upstream helps build public trust downstream.

Practical guidance on facial recognition with police mugshot databases

Following our 2022 joint FPT statement and privacy guidance on facial recognition for police, and in response to requests by interested parties, the IPC developed more specific Ontario-based guidance for police use of facial recognition technology in connection with mugshot databases. Facial recognition is an artificial intelligence technology that uses software to analyze sensitive biometric information to identify or verify a person’s identity. Despite the intended benefits, the technology presents legal, privacy, and ethical challenges, including risks of bias and inaccuracy and impacts on privacy and other fundamental rights, leading to ongoing regulatory debates about its use in Canada and worldwide. 

Building on our FPT work, the IPC’s Facial Recognition and Mugshot Databases: Guidance for Police in Ontario provide more granular guidance to help police reduce the privacy risks associated with these specific types of programs in Ontario before, during, and after implementation. Our guidance is intended to contribute to discussion and decision-making about whether and how police may responsibly use facial recognition in connection with mugshot databases to enhance public safety while respecting the rights of persons and diverse groups in Ontario. Like other advanced AI technologies, public sector use of facial recognition in Ontario needs to be built within clear and binding guardrails that effectively address safety, privacy, accountability, transparency, and human rights.

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