An Aussie entrepreneur is copping flack online for his contentious and, frankly, dystopian startup designed to identify people and source information about them, from a single image.
According to The New York Times, the technology has already been provided to more than 600 law enforcement agencies, including local police in Florida, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Founded by Hoan Ton-That, Clearview AI is a secretive Silicon Valley startup that has been reportedly operating in stealth mode for some time.
It’s facial recognition app allows users to take a picture of a person and upload it, to access public photos of that person, and the sites on which they appear (think Facebook and YouTube).
It has a database of about 3 billion images.
Soon anyone will be able to take a picture of you in public and then have your complete identity. What could go wrong? https://t.co/WhzHGFrxbn
— Roosh (@rooshv) January 22, 2020
According to The New York Times article, although law enforcement didn’t 100% understand how the app works, they’ve used it to help solve shoplifting, credit card fraud and even murder cases.
Clearly, there’s a dark side here.
— Outlaw. (@weirdobutokay) January 20, 2020
Clearview is reportedly also licenced to ‘a handful’ of private companies, and it’s not clear whether the technology is available for use by individuals
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The story has also predictably, and rightly, drawn scorn on Twitter, with one user calling it “disturbing and unethical”.
“This app isn’t available to the public yet, but Clearview thinks it will be in the near future.”
Please think very carefully about the lives you would be putting in danger if this app were to become available to the public. This is a disturbing and unethical use of technology. https://t.co/gSMQSoVLys
— Becca Fouts (@BeccaFouts) January 20, 2020
Others expressed serious concern that the technology could put women at risk, and make life easier for all the wrong people.
A memo from Clearview distributed to potential customers purportedly addressed concerns, stressing that the tech is totally legal and not at all creepy.
“An informed legal analysis … establishes that law enforcement agencies’ use of Clearview for its intended purpose is fully consistent with current federal law and state biometric and privacy laws,” the memo said.
So, consider yourself reassured.
A lot of women would die. That’s what if. https://t.co/uSWE9cPJd3
— Peggy Wolohan von Burkleo (@SamhainNight) January 20, 2020
This is like…one of the absolute pinnacles of “you were so focused on whether you could that you never stopped to think about whether you should.” The blatant privacy issues are on the SURFACE LEVEL and somebody was still like LeT’s MaKe A sTaRtUp
— ???? ‘It’s Still Winter’ Selwyn ???? (@SelwynAfterDark) January 20, 2020