Clearview AI’s app scrapes images from social media platforms and websites, amassing a database that is reported to have currently reached over three billion images.
The system — which has been made available to law enforcement for use in identifying criminals — can identify a person by comparing their photo to its database, and according to CEO Hoan Ton-That, the results are 99.6% accurate.
“You have to remember that this is only used for investigations after the fact. This is not a 24/7 surveillance system,” Ton-That said.
In sending the cease-and-desist, Google and Youtube join Twitter, which did the same in January in an attempt to block the system from taking pictures from its platform, while also requesting that any images already scraped from its platform be deleted entirely from Clearview’s databases.
In a statement to CBS News, Youtube spokesperson Alex Joseph said, “YouTube’s Terms of Service explicitly forbid collecting data that can be used to identify a person. Clearview has publicly admitted to doing exactly that, and in response we sent them a cease and desist letter.”
However, Ton-That argues that Clearview AI has a First Amendment right to access the publicly available data it relies on for its services. “The way we have built our system is to only take publicly available information and index it that way,” he said.
Clearview AI’s services are used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies across the U.S., and though the company would not say how many of those partnerships are free trial subscriptions, it did disclose that The Chicago Police Department (CPD) paid roughly $50,000 for a two-year contract.
According to the CPD, only 30 of its members have access to the system and it does not use the facial recognition service to conduct live surveillance.
“The CPD uses a facial matching tool to sort through its mugshot database and public source information in the course of an investigation triggered by an incident or crime,” a spokesperson for the CPD said to CBS News.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal recently ordered all state law enforcement agencies under his jurisdiction to stop using the tech until they can learn more about how it can be used while working within the law.
“I’m not categorically opposed to facial recognition technology. I think used properly, it can help us solve criminal cases more quickly. It can help us apprehend child abusers, domestic terrorists,” said Grewal, adding, “What I am opposed to is the wide-scale collection of biometric information and the use of it without proper safeguards by law enforcement.”
Source: CBS News
February 6, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis