Clearview AI, the Aussie-founded startup at the centre of a data privacy debate for its facial recognition software, has suffered a data breach reportedly exposing its entire customer list, and details about those customers.
A notification sent to Clearview customers said an intruder had “gained unauthorized access” to the startup’s entire customer list, The Daily Beast reports.
The memo said the intruder was able to see how many searches those customers have made, and how many accounts they have set up.
It’s not clear what the intruder intends to use this data for, but the startup also said its servers were not breached, and that there was no access to law enforcement agencies’ search histories.
Founded by US-based Australian entrepreneur Hoan Ton-That, Clearview rose to notoriety in January this year, when The New York Times suggested it’s tech is already in use at more than 600 law enforcement agencies in the US.
Clearview uses an AI algorithm allowing users to snap a photo of anyone in public, upload it, and access any public images of that person — for example on their public social media accounts.
It has been reported that it has amassed about three billion images of people.
The app was quickly denounced as “disturbing and unethical”, with many social media users raising significant concerns about safety.
“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
Soon, Twitter became the first social media platform to officially demand Clearview stops using images and data from its site. It also requested that Clearview deleted any data it had already acquired.
A CNET report suggested that while the app is not currently available to the general public, it could be “in the future”.
Clearview, however, maintains it is not a consumer application, and that the technology is only available for law enforcement agencies.
At the same time, a report from The New York Times’ The Daily podcast suggested the startup can stop people from being identified, suggesting it can control the results of police investigations.