Regional police considering phone-cracking and video analysis tech

Waterloo Regional Police are looking at new technologies to give their investigations an adrenaline shot.

Among them are GrayKey and Cellebrite, data extraction technologies used to get information from locked phones or other devices.

Cellebrite advertises a “forensically sound” full fuel-system data collection, as well as collection of unallocated data, or deleted items. They also offer “case assist,” where customers can “offload routine cases and ease backlogs by letting our experts extract and decode the data for you.” It’s not clear if Regional police would use this feature.

GreyKey offers similar solutions, though offloading data doesn’t appear to be on their menu.

“These technologies allow investigators to retrieve data from locked devices with lawful authority (warrant or consent) in order to further criminal investigations of all types including, homicides, child exploitation, human trafficking, sexual assaults, intimate partner violence and other violent or serious assaults or property crimes, etc.,” said Superintendent Eugene Fenton in an email. 

Fenton said the intrusion of privacy would only be done with a warrant or consent. 

“…we believe it is an expectation that the public has of the police – to be able to investigate and solve these types of crimes in order to increase public safety.”

The other technology is BriefCam, a video analytics tool. Regional police previously acknowledged use of Clearview AI, which they discovered through an internal review in 2020. The result was an order from the chief to stop using facial recognition technology, as well as new procedures around using new software. Clearview AI searched the open web for faces, but has since discontinued its service in Canada. The federal privacy commissioner recently released a report saying the New York-based company’s scraping of billions of images of people from across the internet was a clear violation of Canadians’ privacy rights.

BriefCam is not the same beast, though it does offer facial recognition. The company’s software focuses on facial recognition of existing video, such as local files or security footage. That said, BriefCam also touts real-time alerts “for face recognition, line crossing, vehicles, people of interest and object count, in time sensitive situations.”

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