The CEO and Founder of Clearview AI have revealed police have run nearly a million searches in the United States using its facial recognition software. According to founder Hoan Ton-That, the company has over 30 billion images of users thanks to efforts to scrap image data from social media platforms such as Facebook without user permission, according to the BBC. This rapidly evolving technology scenes of facial recognition in sci-fi from popular movies such as Minority Report and others.
Clearview has stated that it allows its system to be used by law enforcement customers. They upload a photo of a face and the system will find a match within its massive database of billions of images it has collected thus far. Though many departments are unwilling to admit to using Clearview’s AI, Miami Policy confirmed not only do they use Clearview, but that it uses the software for every type of crime.
For many, this is on the edge of possible civil rights violations due to the software’s intrusive nature; and the fact users didn’t provide consent. Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Matthew Guariglia stated of the situation with Clearview, “Whenever they have a photo of a suspect, they will compare it to your face…It’s far too invasive.”
Considered to be one of the most powerful and accurate facial recognition AIs, the system provides law enforcement customers with links from where matching images can be found online. This is used to match a person with the photo data. Though banned from selling its services to most companies in the United States, thanks to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, this restriction has law enforcement exempt.
To complicate matters more, most police departments are unwilling to admit using Clearview’s AI. But CEO Hoan Ton-That admitted that hundreds of departments across the United States already are customers. In the same BBC report, Miami Police not only admitted to using the software for almost every crime, but tallies the number at 450 searches per year. In Assistant Chief of Police Armando Aguilar’s view, Clearview has already solved murders.
Officer Aguilar also stressed during his interview with the BBC, the software isn’t doing the job for the police, it’s just a “tip” for their officers to get the job done. “We don’t make an arrest because an algorithm tells us to…We either put that name in a photographic line-up or we go about solving the case through traditional means.”
But not everyone sees the use of AI facial recognition software as good news. For critics, they want police to be open when the software is being used to ensure that the AI is being used responsibly. Much of this has to do with concerns surrounding the accuracy and if AI facial recognition software can take up the test in court.
For one criminal defense lawyer, Kaitlin Jackson, they’re not convinced that AI such as Clearview is any better than CCTV or other images found during the process of an investigation. “I think the truth is that the idea that this is incredibly accurate is wishful thinking,” she says. “There is no way to know that when you’re using images in the wild like screengrabs from CCTV.”
To that point agrees that Clearview is just a tool. First, he believes that both prosecutors and defendants should have access to the technology in the build-up of their respective cases. And that AI accuracy shouldn’t be the only factor in an investigation. “We don’t really want to be in court testifying about the accuracy of the algorithm…because the investigators, they’re using other methods to also verify it.”
This isn’t the only issue being faced by Clearview. Again, how they obtain the image data is a major point of contention with privacy advocates. And due to how they just scape social media platforms to get the data for the AI. In Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Matthew Guariglia’s view that’s a problem that can only be solved by a ban. “Clearview is a private company that is making face prints of people based on their photos online without their consent,…It’s a huge problem for civil liberties and civil rights, and it absolutely needs to be banned.“