Clearview AI and Ukrainian officials have provided more details about the use of the former’s facial recognition in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.
Their collaboration first came to light last month, when the US-based Clearview offered the Ukrainian government the use of its face identification platform, free of charge, in the latter’s efforts to fend off the Russian invasion. Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov later confirmed that Ukrainian forces were using Clearview’s facial recognition system to identify Russians killed on the battlefield.
Now, Ukrainian officials are claiming that they have performed over 8,600 facial recognition searches on dead or captured Russian combatants, according to a report from The Washington Post. That’s because Clearview’s system is designed to match an individual’s face against information collected from social media profiles and, potentially, other parts of the internet.
This approach to biometric identification had already brought Clearview a considerable degree of notoriety prior to its work in Ukraine, with privacy advocates and government watchdogs criticizing its sweeping use of facial recognition on vast numbers of civilians without their consent or knowledge. Despite the ongoing criticism and some heavy fines from government agencies, Clearview has built its database to over 20 billion facial images, and is now looking to re-enter the private sector after suspending commercial contracts under legal pressure in 2020.
That having been said, VKontakte – a large platform that is commonly though of as Russia’s Facebook – has been a source of about 10 percent of the images in Clearview’s database, making the Clearview platform a useful tool for the identification of Russian soldiers.
Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That has now revealed to the Post that his firm has given platform access to hundreds of Ukrainian officials across five government agencies, including the Ministry of Defense and the National Police. In some cases, he said, it’s been used through a mobile app to scan faces on the battlefield.
Ukraine’s volunteer ‘IT Army’, meanwhile, claims that it has used facial recognition-based identifications to notify the families of 582 Russians killed in combat, in a practice that one researcher has called “psychological warfare”. And the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation has confirmed that it is using facial recognition technology to identify Russian soldiers who are spotted looting evacuated homes and businesses.
The Ministry has been active on the digital front in other ways, having upgraded the country’s Diia mobile identity app to enable users to report the locations of Russian hostiles and to submit tips about suspected saboteurs directly to Ukrainian military intelligence.
Source: The Washington Post
April 19, 2022 – by Alex Perala