Confidentiality in an Era of Patient-Doctor-Cop

From The Canadian Press:

Doctors at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster have complained that local police and RCMP officers are routinely recording conversations without consent between doctors and patients who are considered a suspect in a crime.

“They will be present when we are trying to question the patients and trying to obtain a history of what happened,” said Tony Taylor, an emergency physician who practises at the hospital.

“They have now recently started recording these conversations and often they will do that unannounced, which has a number of implications around confidentiality and consent.”

As far as doctors at Royal Columbian are concerned, the police are getting in the way of patient care.

Patients tend to clam up when police officers are present, Dr. Taylor said. “That makes it difficult to get those kind of history details that are critically important,” he said.

The idea that the police are present, and recording interactions between a doctor and patient, is patently problematic from a procedural fairness perspective. In the past the authorities have lost Charter challenges based on their attempts to exploit Canada’s one-person consent doctrine; I’d be very curious to know the legal basis for their recording persons who may be accused of a crime, in a setting clearly designated as deserving heightened privacy protections, and the extent to which that legal theory holds up under scrutiny.


Caught on Camera?

Caught on Camera?:

According to Christopher Parsons, a post-doctoral fellow and the managing director of the telecommunications transparency project at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the broadest applications to date [of facial recognition technologies] involve tranches of official photos maintained by government agencies that issue identification documents, such as passports and driver’s licenses.

In recent years, he adds, facial recognition software has become substantially more sophisticated. The advent of so-called 3-D recognition techniques allows the software to make matches between official posed photos and informal, un-posed ones—e.g., images posted on social media sites. What’s more, these biometric algorithms, which can “learn” to recognize faces based on composites developed from multiple images, are no longer restricted to government security. Facebook has a facial recognition app, and at least two developers have built apps for Google Glass that purport to be able to run facial images through picture databases from dating sites or sex offender registries, Forbes reported earlier this year.

To date, this kind of cross-referencing hasn’t produced great results, says Parsons, although he adds that the latest generation “is better than it used to be.”

And in Canada? Police in Vancouver successfully used facial recognition technology to identify looters during the Stanley Cup riot in 2011, drawing from videos submitted by bystanders as well as CCTV images. The technology was also deployed during the G8/G20 in Toronto. But Parsons points out that at date, there’s not enough data on general law enforcement applications to determine whether this sort of facial recognition is effective.