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British Columbia Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, pictured in 2019, says a decision by the federal Liberals to stop the use of facial recognition technology has obviated the need for him to continue an investigation into the practice.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Liberal Party of Canada has ceased using a controversial form of software it had been using to double check the images of party members attending online nomination meetings against their own photo-identification documents, according to B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner.

Michael McEvoy said in a news release Tuesday that the Liberal Party’s move to stop using the software has obviated the need for him to continue an investigation that his office launched back in 2021.

“The Liberal Party of Canada confirmed that it has voluntarily stopped using facial recognition technology (FRT) for identification purposes in nomination races in British Columbia,” Mr. McEvoy’s office said in a statement. It said he “has discontinued the investigation into whether the LPC’s use of this technology is compliant with BC’s Personal Information Protection Act.”

The Liberal Party did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and it was not clear when the party ceased using the software.

The software appears to have been deployed at nomination meetings nationally, but the B.C. meetings were singled out for special interest because that province’s Privacy Commissioner has unique powers to probe the activities of political parties.

Mr. McEvoy’s office had first announced its investigation in 2021, days after the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote an open letter decrying the Liberal Party’s use of software purchased from a California company known as Jumio, citing privacy concerns.

“Cease and desist using it, we recommend, until the legal and policy vacuum in Canada is addressed,” the CCLA said at the time to the Liberal Party. The letter said the Liberals’ use of any kind of facial-recognition software “sends the wrong message to municipal, provincial and federal election officials that this technology is ready for prime time.”

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But the 2021 statement by the civil-liberties group also acknowledged that the software was not the most invasive product of its kind.

“CCLA believes, based on the very limited public information LPC has made available at this time, that the Jumio software you use is a one-to-one matching tool, using ID and photos provided by the member to conduct the match, which is a less invasive option than others.”

On its website, Jumio says “it’s important to understand the distinction between facial recognition and face-based biometrics.”

The company adds that “face-based biometrics and authentication … are permission-based and provide high levels of security to a user while letting them seamlessly access their own accounts or devices.”

In its statement, the B.C. Privacy Commissioner’s office says that the software used by the Liberal Party “was used to verify individuals participating in nominations in the 2021 federal election.”

The commissioner’s office said “the LPC confirmed that all personal information collected by this method was automatically deleted within days of collection. The LPC has agreed to consult with relevant regulators before considering future use of the technology.”

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