Buzzfeed News has published a comprehensive (and searchable) list of US public agencies that have used Clearview AI’s controversial technology to make at least one facial recognition search. The list includes 1,803 local, state, and federal entities, all of which are funded with taxpayer dollars. Many of those entities are law enforcement agencies, though the list ultimately includes organizations from many different walks of government life, covering everything from the US Postal Service to various state universities.
The list was put together using information from a confidential source. That information was then cross-referenced with public records and interviews to make sure each entry corresponded with a real government entity. Those that could not be confirmed were eventually dropped from the finished product.
Of the 1,803 entities on the final list, 335 went on the record and confirmed that their employees had made a search with Clearview AI. Thirty-four of those agencies were unaware of those searches at the time, and indicated that their employees had simply taken advantage of one of the free trials that Clearview made readily available. Critics have argued that Clearview used those trials to get around the official approval channels for the use of biometric technologies.
Most of the agencies (1,161) did not respond to a request for comment, while 97 responded but did not indicate whether they did or did not use the technology in question. Two hundred ten denied any use of Clearview AI, while 69 denied it but later amended their statements after learning that some of their employees had in fact performed searches.
While the list is impressive, Buzzfeed noted that it does have several limitations. Most notably, the list only covers the time period between 2018 and February of 2020, and therefore does not include any organizations that completed searches in the past year. By the same token, the fact that an agency is on the list does not mean that that agency was a paying Clearview customer. Many organizations only performed a few test searches to evaluate the technology, and never used the tech in the course of an active investigation.
The list includes estimates for the number of searches conducted at each agency, but Buzzfeed warned that that data has not been verified or disputed by Clearview itself. The company is now facing legal action in multiple jurisdictions, with most of the cases alleging that Clearview has violated privacy laws by gathering biometric information without any form of consent.
Source: Buzzfeed News
April 9, 2021 – by Eric Weiss