Alberta’s information and privacy commissioner has opened an investigation into the use of body-worn cameras and facial recognition software by Calgary police to make sure it’s in line with provincial privacy legislation.

Jill Clayton’s investigation will focus on how the new technologies will be used, what steps the force has taken to protect personal information from being used improperly under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP).

The Calgary Police Service (CPS) unveiled plans Monday to start using facial recognition software to compare mugshots with crime scene photos and video, making it the first Canadian force with such a program.

In September, CPS announced that all front-line officers will be wearing body cameras by the end of the year.

“Police agencies have broad authority under the FOIP Act to collect, use and disclose personal information for law enforcement purposes,” Clayton said in a written release.

“But I have questions regarding how CPS is implementing these technologies, and specifically what steps have been taken to ensure privacy and security risks have been identified and addressed.”

Police spokesperson Kevin Brookwell says he is confident everything will comply with the rules.

"We are well aware of FOIP legislation and our FOIP requirements under the act," he said. "In fact, we have an in house FOIP department, including a full-time FOIP lawyer."

Commissioner asked for impact assessments

Clayton asked the police force to submit voluntary privacy impact assessments to her office before rolling out the new technology but it failed to do so, she said.

Calgary police will only target the facial recognition technology at people believed to have committed criminal offences, said Insp. Rosemary Hawkins during Monday's news conference about the new program. 

“This technology will not be used to identify people walking down the street as a member of the general public,” she said.

“It will be used to identify subjects involved in criminal activity under police investigation and the image searched against our mugshot database, which holds photos of people that have been processed on charges."

The results of Clayton’s investigation, and any recommendations, will be made public.