I recently wrote about Clearview AI, a company that sells face recognition software to law enforcement and holds billions of photos for use in their software. They crawl Twitter, YouTube and Facebook for faces to add to their database. In return Twitter, YouTube and Facebook all sent cease-and-desist letters last month demanding they stop.
Just a few weeks after the news broke of the social media giants’ demands, more news comes out on Clearview AI regarding a data breach. The breach included client data that presumably includes the law enforcement agencies that use Clearview AI. Luckily, according to Clearview AI, none of the face recognition database leaked. Clearview AI didn’t say how the breach happened but said no servers were compromised, leading us to believe that access to their customer database wasn’t secured from the outside properly.
After news of the breach came out, Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI, told CNN Business he wants to build a “great American company” with “the best of intentions.” While the company created the database to help catch criminals, the way they created the database by stealing users’ photos from the internet is an unethical practice itself. After the data breach, Clearview AI’s attorney Tor Ekeland said “unfortunately, data breaches are a part of life.”
Last week, Apple caught Clearview AI using their Apple development certificates for distributing apps to multiple companies, which is not allowed in the Apple developer agreement. Clearview can’t seem to stay out of the news lately and creates a bad image for face recognition software that’s already struggling with its reputation.
Face recognition may have its use with law enforcement when used properly and for the right reasons, but companies like Clearview AI show how dangerous this can become. We hope the big players of face recognition will learn to self-regulate this new technology field. If they don’t companies will abuse face recognition for unethical purposes leading to an outright ban of face recognition. Then only non- legitimate companies will use face recognition for nefarious purposes.