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article imageClearview AI's facial recognition app poses many privacy concerns

By Karen Graham     Jan 22, 2020 in Technology
The latest example of Silicon Valley’s hubris is the facial-recognition app Clearview AI. The small startup’s app is so powerful that someone could walk up to you on the street, snap your photo, and quickly find out your name, address, and phone numbe
Clearview AI is a facial recognition company founded by Hoan Ton-That - an Australian techie and onetime model. His got started with an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos. Then, he got into facial recognition.
The company has quietly gone about its business in relative obscurity, gathering 3 billion images of people from social media websites, using the images to create a database that is being used by over 600 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, according to New York Times reporter Kashmir Hill.
It was the New York Times story that brought the secretive company to the world's attention, and now, privacy advocates are raising some serious concerns. "It is being used to solve many murder cases, identity fraud cases, child exploitation cases," Hill told The Current's host Matt Galloway., according to CBC Canada.
According to Hill, "You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared." Clearview AI claims it has used images from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites, and Hill says this goes far beyond anything constructed by the U.S. government or any of the Silicone Valley giants.
A Eurostar passenger going through an automated ePassport gate equiped with a facial recognition sys...
A Eurostar passenger going through an automated ePassport gate equiped with a facial recognition system the gare du Nord in Paris: Canada and the Netherlands hope to reproduce the experience on trans-Atlantic flights by 2020
PHILIPPE LOPEZ, AFP
Hill said that even when she covered her face and mouth for a photo, it still pulled up seven images of her. "I was just shocked at how well this face recognition algorithm works," she said.
Digital Trends says this new facial recognition app probably sounds great to only two types of people: Law enforcement and creeps. The app could be a boon to stalkers, people with a history of domestic abuse or even pedophiles.
“As the news of this app spread, women everywhere sighed,” said Jo O’Reilly, a privacy advocate with the U.K.-based ProPrivacy, in a statement to Digital Trends. “Once again, women’s safety both online and in real life has come second place to the desire of tech startups to create — and monetize — ever more invasive technology.”
A Facebook company spokesman told Digital Trends that “scraping Facebook information or adding it to a directory are prohibited by our policies, so we are reviewing the claims about this company and will take appropriate action if we find they are violating our rules.” Twitter also says it prohibits this use of its data.
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