Your Images Stolen to Create Facial Recognition Database Unbeknownst to You

Close Up Of Beautiful Woman Face With Face Recognition Technolog

Law Enforcement Using Startup’s Facial Recognition Database 

Cristal M Clark 

That selfie you took for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like is not as private as you might you think. A startup company, Clearview AI is a collaboration between Hoan Ton-That, an Australian native who moved to the US in 2007, and Richard Schwartz, a former aide to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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It’s a  facial-recognition startup that is being used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the US to solve crimes, but little is known about the software, not even law enforcement agencies know much about it. 

When law enforcement uploads a photo to the application, which by the way has been used by more than 600 law-enforcement agencies, Clearview AI scans for matches across its catalog of billions of photos it scraped from social media websites, typically in violation of those sites’ terms of service. It then shows the results to whomever made the search, typically law enforcement however since so little is known about the software and who all is using it you can pretty much guess that law enforcement is not the only ones using the software.

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Clearview did not share which law-enforcement agencies have used its tool, they did indicate that hundreds of law-enforcement agencies have in fact utilized the software. 

The app’s founders reportedly began marketing the service to law-enforcement agencies for as little as $2,000 and interestingly, the founders reportedly relied on former and current Republican officials to approach law-enforcement agencies about using the low-priced service, or in some cases, a free trial of the software.

Alarmingly in a careful look at the software it was discovered that an underlying code in the application also revealed the software had been designed to work with augmented reality technology, meaning someone wearing special goggles or glasses could potentially use Clearview AI to instantly determine details, including a person’s identity and address.

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And these details, well that’s pissed Facebook off according to a spokesperson: “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.”

Clearview however goes beyond just letting law enforcement use it’s software, it tracks whomever law enforcement is searching for and it sees everything law enforcement is searching for. 

Facial recognition technology has been centered around privacy issues and claims of racial bias in the technology. A study released in December by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found facial recognition technology had a racial-bias, typically having a a more difficult time identifying non-white people and women.

That being said, it’s just yet another intrusion or is it? I’ve long said that whatever you share on social media regardless of whether or not you make it private will in fact, eventually be fair game to some money hungry organization. 

Cristal M Clark

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