Clearview AI is continuing to experience blowback over its controversial facial recognition scheme. Facebook has told Clearview to stop mining the social media platform for the photos in its database, adding its name to the growing list of tech giants that have taken issue with Clearview’s practices.
Clearview first came under fire in the wake of a ground-shaking New York Times report that detailed the company’s intrusive facial recognition program. The company has quietly licensed its software to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, letting them search for suspects using a database that includes more than 3 billion individual photos.
The problem (beyond the usual privacy concerns) is that many of those images were pulled from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which have policies that explicitly forbid that kind of external data mining. That led some experts to conclude that Clearview could be on legally shaky footing, and the companies in question would seem to agree. Twitter, Google, and YouTube have already issued formal cease and desist letters, and Facebook cited its own policies while making a request that covers both Facebook and Instagram.
“Scraping people’s information violates our policies, which is why we’ve demanded that Clearview stop accessing or using information from Facebook or Instagram,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
Unlike Google and Twitter, Facebook stopped short of a formal cease and desist letter, though the company stressed that it is still considering its options. In the meantime, Facebook has asked Clearview for more information about its activities.
For its part, Clearview has argued that the photos on platforms like Facebook represent publicly available information, which gives anyone the right to use that information as they see fit. However, that argument seems dubious at best, especially in light of the recent flurry of cease and desist letters. In all likelihood, the company’s cavalier approach to privacy may only lend additional fuel to the growing movement against facial recognition.
Source: The Verge
February 6, 2020 – by Eric Weiss