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B.C., Alberta, Quebec watchdogs order Clearview AI to stop using facial recognition tool – CBC.ca

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Three provincial privacy watchdogs have ordered facial recognition company Clearview AI to stop collecting, using and disclosing images of people without consent.

The privacy authorities of British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec are also requiring the U.S. firm to delete images and biometric data collected without permission from individuals.

The binding orders made public Tuesday follow a joint investigation by the three provincial authorities with the office of federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien.

The watchdogs found in February that Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology resulted in mass surveillance of Canadians and violated federal and provincial laws governing personal information.

They said the New York-based company’s gathering of billions of images of people from across the internet — to help police forces, financial institutions and other clients identify people — was a clear breach of Canadians’ privacy rights.

The orders from the provincial authorities Tuesday also require Clearview AI to stop offering its facial recognition services in the three provinces. Clearview has not been providing services to clients in Canada since the summer of 2020, but has hinted it could return.

Canada’s privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien launched a joint probe into Clearview AI earlier this year with his provincial counterparts from Alberta, Quebec and B.C. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Therrien’s office lacks order-making powers similar to these provincial ones, prompting calls over the years to update outdated federal privacy legislation.

“We welcome these important actions taken by our provincial counterparts,” Therrien said in a statement. “While Clearview stopped offering its services in Canada during the investigation, it had refused to cease the collection and use of Canadians’ data or delete images already collected.”

‘Simply not possible’ 

The company told B.C. privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy in May it was “simply not possible” to identify whether individuals in photos were in Canada at the time the image was taken or whether they were Canadian citizens or residents.

In reply, McEvoy pointed to Clearview’s intention, stated in a U.S. judicial proceeding, to limit the collection and use of personal information in the state of Illinois.

In his order Tuesday, McEvoy rejected the company’s “bare assertion that it cannot comply” and concluded it does have the means and ability to severely limit, if not eliminate, the collection, use and disclosure of personal information of British Columbians.

“Put another way, this is not a question of cannot but rather will not.”

Clearview says decision contrary to freedom of expression

Doug Mitchell, a lawyer for the company, said Clearview AI is a search engine that only collects public data just as much larger companies do, including Google, which is permitted to operate in Canada.

Given that Clearview is not operating in Canada now, the company believes the orders are beyond the powers of the provincial privacy commissioners, as well as unnecessary, Mitchell said Tuesday.

“To restrict the free flow of publicly available information in the sense proposed by the privacy commissioners would be contrary to the Canadian constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.”

Clearview AI left the Canadian market, but the problem created by their business model remains, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said in applauding the provincial crackdown.

The company still holds, and uses, potentially millions of photos of people from Canada, which they continue to sell to policing bodies around the world, the civil liberties association said.

“This leaves potentially all Canadian residents who have ever posted photos online on a wide range of popular online platforms in a perpetual police lineup,” the association added.

“We are profoundly concerned that the inconsistencies in privacy laws mean that millions of other people in other Canadian jurisdictions remain unprotected by this order.”

The association says not only does facial recognition amount to a dangerous form of mass surveillance, it is fundamentally flawed given the technology’s inaccuracies that can effectively discriminate against people who are not white.

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Canada Dec retail sales seen down as COVID restrictions bite

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Canadian retail sales most likely fell by 2.1% in December as authorities imposed restrictions to fight the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and retailers faced challenges, Statistics Canada predicted on Friday.

Statscan also said retail sales rose 0.7% in November, which was less than the 1.2% gain forecast by analysts.

The flash estimate for December was based on responses from 50.6% of companies surveyed. The average response rate is 90.0%.

Statscan also said some shoppers decided to pull forward their purchases to November to avoid shortages caused by endemic supply chain issues.

Andrew Grantham, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the December dip was a little larger than he had expected.

“Bricks-and-mortar retailers will have likely continued to struggle in January due to Omicron-related restrictions and staff shortages,” he said in a note.

This weakness, he suggested, might “tip the scales slightly” in terms of persuading the Bank of Canada to hold steady when it makes a rate announcement on Jan 26. Money markets see about a 70% chance that the central bank will lift its key overnight rate from the current record low 0.25%. {BOCWATCH]

The bank has previously said it could raise rates as early as soon as April.

Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics, said the December decrease in sales was likely to be more than 2.1%, given the rapid spread of Omicron that month.

November’s gain was fueled by higher sales at gasoline stations, and at building materials and gardening equipment and supplies dealers.

Sales rose in six of 11 subsectors, representing 63.8% of retail trade. In volume terms, retail sales edged up 0.2%.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.1% lower at 1.2520 to the greenback, or 79.87 U.S. cents.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Fergal Smith in Toronto; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Canada's energy patch sees 'significant' boost in investment – BNN

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Investment in Canada’s oil and natural gas industry will rise 22 per cent this year to $32.8 billion (US$26.3 billion) amid higher prices for hydrocarbons, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The $6 billion gain in investment marks the second straight year of “significant” increases, the oil and gas industry association said Thursday in a report. Spending on Canadian energy is rising as U.S. oil prices surge to their highest in seven years. West Texas Intermediate futures are trading at more than US$85 a barrel and natural gas up about 60 per cent in the last year amid an energy demand recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Investment in Canadian oil sands, the world’s third largest oil reserves, will jump by a third to $11.6 billion while investment in conventional oil and gas will climb 17 per cent to $21.2 billion from last year.

Still, CAPP warned that Canada is losing out to other energy-producing regions. Canada was viewed as a “top tier” jurisdiction for international investment in 2014, when it attracted $81 billion or more than 10 per cent of global upstream gas and oil investment. Forecasts suggest Canada’s market share has fallen to 6 per cent — a drop that represents more than US$21 billion in potential investment. 

This year’s investment growth will leave the industry about where it was in 2018, before the pandemic slashed demand, Tim McMillan, CAPP’s president and chief executive officer, said by phone.

Many Canadian energy companies, similar to their U.S. peers, are paying down debt and returning cash windfalls from oil price gains to shareholders through stock buybacks and higher dividends as investors seek higher returns over growth. Meanwhile, concern about the impact of higher-than-average carbon emissions from Canada’s oil sands prompted some banks and funds to pull investment from the industry in recent years.

“There has been pressure put on the banking industry and through other mechanisms, which is pushing investment to other jurisdictions,” McMillan said.

Investment in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil industry will rise about 6.7 per cent to $1.6 billion this year, according to CAPP. In comparison, the Gulf of Mexico’s offshore investment is expected to jump 21 per cent to $13.1 billion this year.

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Peloton stock is crashing on reports it's halting production of bikes and treadmills – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The bad news flywheel continues to be spinning in warp speed at Peloton (PTON). 

Shares of Peloton crashed 24% to $24.22 on Thursday after a CNBC report that the struggling fitness company would temporarily halt production of its bikes and treadmills due to sluggish consumer demand. Shares fell below the company’s September 2019 IPO price of $29. 

The company will reportedly stop producing its bikes for two months and treadmills for six weeks. 

A Peloton spokeswoman didn’t return Yahoo Finance’s request for comment. 

“Peloton’s inventory build at the end of last quarter made it clear that they were still operating a supply demand mismatch. Unfortunately, unlike the pandemic, this time supply meaningfully outpaced demand,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Simeon Siegel told Yahoo Finance. 

Siegel has been a long-time bear on Peloton with an Underperform rating on its stock. 

Shares are now down 30% in December amid bad headlines from a product placement in the new “Sex and the City” reboot. One of the show’s lead characters, Mr. Big, suffers a heart attack after a Peloton bike ride at the end of its premiere episode. 

Earlier, Peloton’s stock crashed more than 30% on Nov. 5 after the company said that connected fitness subscribers of 2.49 million was roughly in-line with analyst estimates. The number of workouts on the platform trended lower for the second consecutive quarter. Sales fell well short of analyst estimates, and the company posted a wider loss than expected.

Peloton also slashed its full-fiscal year outlook.

The company sees full-year sales of $4.4 billion to $4.8 billion, down sharply from $5.4 billion previously. Peloton expected a full-year adjusted operating loss of $425 million to $475 million. The company had expected an operating loss of $325 million.

Shares are down 83% in the past year.

More bad news could be right around the corner: Peloton’s earnings release on Feb. 8. 

“We expect that guidance, if given, will be kitchen-sinked at this point and await more color on these various news items on the call,” Macquarie analyst Paul Golding said. Golding rates Peloton at outperform with an $85 price target, which assumes 254% upside from current price levels.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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