Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey (Dem) is once again asking Clearview AI for greater transparency, and for the controversial facial recognition company to submit to an independent assessment of its technology. The latest letter was penned in response to reports that suggest that law enforcement agencies could be using the platform to identify and target the protestors advocating for police reform in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
Markey has already sent several letters to Clearview to ask for greater public oversight. He noted that the company has ignored those previous requests, and has thus far refused to submit to any independent testing, including basic bias and accuracy evaluations. It is therefore unclear if Clearview meets the typical industry standards, which could lead to even more bias, profiling, and false positives if its technology is used against those engaged in mass demonstrations.
“As demonstrators across the country exercise their First Amendment rights by protesting racial injustice, it is important that law enforcement does not use technological tools to stifle free speech or endanger members of the public,” wrote Markey. “I urge you to take every step necessary to ensure that your technology will not force Americans to choose between sacrificing their rights to privacy or remaining silent in the face of injustice.”
In the meantime, Markey has asked Clearview to state that it will not violate the civil liberties of American citizens. He is also asking the organization to do a better job of monitoring its law enforcement partners to make sure the technology is not being abused, and to create a mechanism that allows people to opt out of the Clearview database.
Markey indicated that any promises would need to apply to the ongoing protests. He demanded that Clearview prohibit the use of its platform during the demonstrations, and then went on to ask Clearview to provide information about its recent traffic, and about any new law enforcement contracts that have been signed in the past few weeks.
Clearview is currently facing several BIPA lawsuits and has suspended its contract with the Chicago Police Department. However, the company is still serving other law enforcement agencies, and has been in negotiations about a potential contact tracing program. The company’s critics (including Senator Markey) have strongly objected to that scheme due to Clearview’s brazen disregard for people’s privacy.
IBM, on the other hand, has stopped selling facial recognition software and asked for police reform in response to the protests.
June 9, 2020 – by Eric Weiss