Clearview AI is redefining our privacy. The New York-based tech company is working to identify and compile the faces of every human being on the planet. It claims that the database will serve as a force for good, helping to solve crimes and prevent espionage. But its clients include Middle Eastern dictatorships and its links to the far-right and the source of its funding have raised other concerns. The risks it poses are immense.
Clearview AI says it’s aiming to collect 100 billion images – that’s 14 for every person on the planet. Most of these images are scraped from social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Already it is the second most accurate face recognition platform in the world. The most accurate one is run by the Chinese Communist Party and used for for real time mass surveillance in order to monitor its population and suppress dissent.
To the concern of many, Clearview’s technology has been licensed to the United Arab Emirates, where those who dare criticise the regime end up in prison or in exile. Surveillance cameras installed on roads and buildings allow the authorities to track people at all times. In America, Clearview AI is used to track undocumented immigrants and surveil protesters during civil unrest, as well as identify criminals. And, as reproductive rights come under threat, some women fear facial recognition could be used to track them.
Already there have cases of false identification. Their technology has proven to be less accurate when it comes to identifying Black people. Under the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) it’s illegal to collect people’s biometric data – including their faceprints – without their explicit consent. In late 2022, France’s National Data Protection Commission fined Clearview AI 20 million euros for illegally collecting and processing faceprints of French citizens. They also told Clearview to delete the images. To this day Clearview has not complied. France, Italy, Greece, the UK, Canada and Australia have all launched legal proceedings against the firm.
We spoke to Clearview’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That, and investigated the potential misuse of this technology.
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