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Toronto police admit using secretive facial recognition technology Clearview AI

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Toronto police have admitted some of their officers have used Clearview AI — a powerful and controversial facial recognition tool that scrapes data from billions of images from the internet — one month after denying using the tool.

Spokesperson Meaghan Gray said in an email that some members of the force began using the technology in October 2019, but didn’t say what for or how many times it had been used.

Chief Mark Saunders directed those officers to stop using the technology when he became aware of its use on Feb. 5, she said. Gray didn’t say who originally approved the use to the app.

Clearview AI has the capacity to turn up search results, including a person’s name and other information such as their phone number, address or occupation, based on nothing more than a photo. The program is not available for public use.

Gray said officers were “informally testing this new and evolving technology.” She did not say how the chief found out about its use.

Concerns began mounting about the software earlier this year after a New York Times investigation revealed the software had extracted more than three billion photos from public websites like Facebook and Instagram and used them to create a database used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

In January, Toronto police told CBC News they used facial recognition, but denied using Clearview AI. It’s unclear if police purchased the technology — if so, it was never disclosed publicly — or were allowed to demo the app.

At the time, Ontario Provincial Police also said they used facial recognition technology, but wouldn’t specific which tools they used. The RCMP would not say what tools it uses.

Vancouver’s police department said it had never used the software and had no intention of doing so.

Toronto police seek external review

Toronto police have now asked Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Crown attorneys’ office to work with the service to review whether Clearview AI is an appropriate investigative tool, she said.

“Until a fulsome review of the product is completed, it will not be used by the Toronto Police Service.”

There are growing concerns about how the technology is used and whether it infringes on civil liberties.

The Toronto Police Services Board said it was not aware of the technology being used by the force.

“A report on this issue has never been the subject of consideration by the board,” Sandy Murray said, speaking for the board.

A spokesperson for Toronto Mayor John Tory said the mayor was notified Thursday about the use of the tool by Toronto police.

“We understand that Chief Mark Saunders has directed its use be halted immediately and that Toronto Police is now working with the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Crown Attorneys’ Office to review the technology and its appropriateness as an investigative tool. The Mayor supports this decision,” said the statement from spokesperson Don Peat.

U.S. lawsuit filed against Clearview AI

In Illinois, a lawsuit seeking class-action status was just filed against Clearview AI claiming the company broke privacy laws, namely the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), meant to safeguard residents from having their biometric data used without consent.

The lawsuit, which is seeking, among other things, an injunction to stop Clearview from continuing its business, argues that the company “used the internet to covertly gather information on millions of American citizens, collecting approximately three billion pictures of them, without any reason to suspect any of them of having done anything wrong, ever.”

It’s unclear if Toronto police have made any arrests based on information generated by the app.

The Toronto revelation raises longer-term questions such as how any data that was gathered will be stored and whether it will ever be used as evidence in an Ontario court.

 

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B.C. reveals 6th presumptive coronavirus case – CBC.ca

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A sixth person in B.C. is believed to be infected with the coronavirus, and the case is raising new questions about how the disease is spreading, health officials announced Thursday.

The latest patient is a woman in her 30s who lives in the Fraser Health region, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. She had recently returned from a trip to Iran and is now recovering at home.

Henry said officials were surprised when they learned the woman had only visited Iran, and not China or neighbouring countries that have seen the bulk of COVID-19 cases.

“That could be an indicator that there’s more widespread transmission. This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event,” Henry told a news conference.

“I expect there’ll be an international investigation to try to understand where the exposure occurred.”

She added that Iran has recently announced five cases of the virus and two deaths. 

Henry described the woman’s infection as relatively mild, and said she tested positive for the virus after visiting the hospital with what she thought were symptoms of the flu. 

The patient has had contact with others since her return from Iran last week. Close family members are currently in isolation and being monitored by public health officials.

She said health officials are looking into when the patient’s symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft. Her diagnosis is considered presumptive until confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. 

Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus. All cases so far have been relatively mild, according to health officials.

The update comes one day after Hnery revealed that B.C.’s first confirmed coronavirus patient has fully recovered, and that four others are symptom free.

The fifth, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.

Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu. Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is currently testing a “very significant number” of patients for the virus, and he expects to provide another update on Friday.

New numbers from China

China, where an outbreak has caused more than 2,200 deaths, has reported another drop in new virus cases to 889 as COVID-19 spreads elsewhere.

China’s latest figures released Friday for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236.

More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland.

Iran announced three more infections Thursday, a day after it reported its first two deaths, and South Korea reported its first fatality. Japan said two former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship had died of the illness.

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Canadian stranded in Cuba dies suddenly at airport waiting for flight home – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A Canadian man who was stranded on a small island in Cuba has died while waiting for his flight home.

Travellers have been stranded on Cayo Largo del Sur for several days after a runway at the island’s only airport was damaged earlier this week. 

On Wednesday, passengers flying back to Toronto were taken to the closed airport to be processed before they took a ferry to Cuba’s mainland. They were then flown out of Havana and arrived in Toronto around 5 a.m. on Thursday. 

Ontario woman Chantalle Menchions said she was waiting for the ferry, along with other Air Transat passengers, when a man suddenly dropped to the floor. 

The 24-year-old nurse said she ran over to the man but he didn’t have a pulse.

“People started screaming. It was chaos,” Menchions told CTV News Toronto on Thursday. She, along with four other people, immediately began to administer CPR. 

“People were yelling and freaking out. I started yelling at people to get out of the way.”

“We checked for a pulse but there wasn’t one. He wasn’t responsive.”

Menchions said about 15 minutes later, a medical team arrived at the airport and took the man away. She said she was never given an update about the man’s condition.

Chantalle

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Global Affairs confirmed the Canadian died. His name, age and cause of death have not been released. 

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Canadian citizen who died in Cuba,” the statement released on Thursday said.

“Consular services are being provided to the family of the individual.”

Meanwhile, Air Transat confirmed one of their passengers needed medical attention.

“I can confirm that one of our passengers required medical attention prior to departure from Cayo Largo and was transported to the international clinic by ambulance,” Air Transat said in a statement to CTV News Toronto. 

“As is the case for any situation involving our passengers, we will not give out any other information for reasons of privacy.”

“This delay in returning to Canada is the result of a situation beyond our control, and we regret any inconvenience that has resulted, but I can assure you our teams worked tirelessly in collaboration with Cuban authorities to safely bring our passengers home.”

Cuba

Concerns raised about lack of medication 

Travellers stranded on Cuba have expressed concerns that they were not able to access crucial medication while they were stranded. 

“There were lots of people who ran out of medication. I know I personally ran out of mine,” Menchions said. 

“I had people coming up and saying ‘I’m out of my blood pressure medication.’ But nowhere on the island had anything.”

Air Transat confirmed they received concerns from some passengers about a lack of medication but says additional medication was provided. 

“Tour operator representatives on site contacted a doctor on the island and additional medication was provided to clients who requested it.”

Passengers taken on cockroach-infested ferry

Menchions said that after emergency crews arrived and took the man away passengers were put on a bus and taken to a ferry.

She said officials at the airport weren’t interested in speaking with her or any of the other people who performed CPR on the man.

“I was on the bus five minutes later,” Menchions said. “No one stopped to talk with us. We tried to talk to the doctor but they kept going.”

Roach

The ferry ride took approximately six hours. Menchions said after the sun went down, cockroaches came out and began crawling around the boat.  

After they arrived in mainland Cuba, they were bussed to Havana where passengers eventually boarded an Air Transat flight to Toronto. 

“It’s something I’ve never experience before,” Menchions said. 

The airport is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 26.

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The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti-pipeline demonstrators – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia:

The federal agriculture minister is indicating that help could soon be on the way for farmers impacted by barricades that have virtually shut down Canada’s rail network.

Marie-Claude Bibeau says 2019 and the beginning of this year have been difficult for Canada’s agriculture sector.

She told reporters in Ottawa today that she is looking for “practical ways” to support farmers who have been unable to get their products to market as a result of the barricades, but could not elaborate, saying she needs to speak with her cabinet colleagues first.

Rail and road barricades have been erected in several locations across the country over the last two weeks in solidarity with the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose a pipeline project on their territory in northwestern B.C.

The RCMP confirms the commander of the Mountie’s British Columbia division has sent a letter to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, agreeing to discuss the future of a small contingent of officers stationed on traditional First Nation territory near the site of a disputed pipeline.

The letter from Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan says she is willing to meet with the chiefs to discuss what she calls the Community Industry Safety Office, located southwest of Houston along a road leading to the area where the Coastal GasLink pipeline is under construction.

Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says the letter states that if there is continued commitment to keep the road open, the need for the police presence is “diminished or decreased.”

Shoihet says the letter was sent Wednesday.

She says Strachan also sent an internal memo to all RCMP employees in B.C., offering her appreciation for their “professionalism” during recent enforcement of a court injunction ordering demonstrators away from the pipeline site.

The memo tells members that management is aware the presence of the RCMP contingent on the road is considered by hereditary chiefs as a barrier to further dialogue, and RCMP management supports efforts now underway to find a long-term solution to the issue.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says police will dismantle a rail blockade in St-Lambert, south of Montreal, if a court grants an injunction.

He says the blockade that went up Wednesday is not on First Nations land, making it easier to take action.

The blockade in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia was erected on CN tracks, and has disrupted rail service for suburban commuters and travellers between Montreal and Quebec City.

A few dozen protesters, well stocked with supplies, tents, camping gear and firewood, are at the site today and say they plan to stay as long as RCMP remain on Wet’suwet’en lands.

Snow has been piled onto tracks, with signs strung across a cord hung between rail signals.

Protesters, who declined to give their names to reporters, describe themselves as supporters of the Wet’suwet’en and say they will take their direction from the B.C. First Nation’s hereditary chiefs, who are contesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole says he would criminalize blockades of railways, air and seaports, major roads, businesses and households if he were prime minister.

The Ontario MP and former cabinet minister says police should clear blockades as soon as possible without having to wait for court injunctions.

Blockades set up in support of Indigenous protests of a natural-gas pipeline in British Columbia have halted rail traffic in Central Canada and temporarily blocked roads and bridges in spots across the country.

O’Toole also says he would take charitable status away from any group that accepts foreign contributions and encourages blockades.

To improve relations with Indigenous Peoples, O’Toole says he would fund an Aboriginal liaison officers in the RCMP.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP have offered to move officers away from the area where traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been opposing a pipeline on their territory.

Blair says that meets the conditions set by the chiefs, who have demanded that Mounties leave their traditional lands southwest of Houston, B.C.

But yesterday Chief Na’moks, one of five hereditary clan chiefs who lead the First Nation under its traditional form of governance, said pipeline builder Coastal GasLink must also pull out of the traditional territory before any meeting with provincial and federal politicians can proceed.

Canada’s minister in charge of Indigenous relations, Carolyn Bennett, and her B.C. counterpart Scott Fraser are in northern B.C. to meet with any of the hereditary chiefs who might be willing to talk.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he is attending a funeral and is unavailable to meet today, while the other four hereditary chiefs are expected in Mohawk territory to thank members of that Ontario First Nation for their solidarity.

Nationwide protests and blockades followed a move by RCMP to enforce a court injunction earlier this month against the hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been obstructing an access road to the company’s work site.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

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