Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov has confirmed that the country is indeed using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology to identify fallen soldiers. Clearview first revealed that it would be supplying Ukraine with free facial recognition tech earlier this month, and while identifying the dead was listed as a possible application, Ukraine had not yet offered any concrete details about its plans for the technology at the time of that announcement.
The latest news ends some of that speculation. According to Fedorov, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is specifically using Clearview to identify the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine during the invasion. Clearview’s database contains more than 2 billion images from the Russian social media platform VKontakte, so Ukrainian authorities can use the platform to identify the dead, and to find and notify their next of kin. From there, the families of the dead can reach out to the Ukrainian government to make arrangements to collect the body.
The Ukrainian government is not using Clearview to identify its own soldiers, although that could reflect the fact that the country has other ways to verify its dead. More traditional biometrics like fingerprints and dental records are still considered to be more reliable forms of identity verification, and Ukraine is much more likely to have those records for its own citizens than it is for Russian nationals.
Fedorov did not reveal how many bodies have been identified with Clearview, though Ukraine has previously claimed that 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during the conflict. Russia, on the other hand, has not updated its figures since acknowledging that 498 had been killed as of March 2. Fedorov indicated that a high percentage of the soldiers identified with Clearview have since been claimed by their families.
While the Ministry of Defense is using Clearview, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has been posting images of Russian soldiers to its own Look For Your Own Telegram channel in the hopes that Russian citizens will recognize their family members and reach out to claim them. Clearview’s database now contains more than 20 billion images, though several countries have now ruled that many of those images were gathered illegally. Most notably, Italy hit Clearview with a €20 million fine shortly before the company announced its arrangement with Ukraine.
March 28, 2022 – by Eric Weiss