US Army Now Using Clearview's Unproven Tech To Investigate Crimes

from the sole-source-provider-of-a-service-no-one-else-is-willing-to-create dept

We can add another government agency to the list of entities that have been suckered in by Clearview’s highly questionable sales pitches about its unproven tech: the US Army. [Paywall ahead, but alternatives abound.]

The US Army has a contract with Clearview AI, according to documents that reveal the controversial facial-recognition startup making bold claims to the military about capabilities such as “criminal network discovery” and “force protection and area security.”

The contract, obtained with other documents by Insider via public-records request, shows the US military awarding a discounted contract for Clearview to work with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which investigates serious crimes that could involve active service members or civilian workers for the Army.

Fantastic. Now, let’s back up a bit to the opening paragraph. By “highly questionable,” I mean many of Clearview’s assertions about its crime fighting efficacy have been directly contradicted by law enforcement agencies who’ve test-driven the product. And by “unproven,” I mean Clearview has never submitted its facial recognition AI to outside, independent testing — like that performed by the NIST. And by “suckered in,” I mean the Army fell for all of it, converting its test run of Clearview’s tech into a sole-source contract for fifteen licenses.

The memo [PDF] obtained by Business Insider says Clearview is one of a kind.

Clearview Al provides unique and innovative capability with regard to facial recognition technology and its use by law enforcement organizations. The 502d MP BN (CID) has been using this tool on a trial basis and has seen an increase of 15%- 25% success in positively identifying potential subject, victims and witnesses in possible crimes under Army CID jusridiction. They were the only company capable of providing the service.

I’m not sure about that last sentence. It would read better as “the only company willing to provide the service.” Unlike other, more reputable facial recognition tech providers, Clearview’s database of facial photos and personal information is scraped from thousands of public websites and social media services. It isn’t the only company capable of doing this. But so far, it’s been the only one willing to scrape the web and sell access to its billions of harvested images.

That may make Clearview unique. But it doesn’t make it good or reputable or tolerable. And if the CID is seeing more positive identifications, it’s only because it has more images to work with. What it doesn’t have is a (excuse the term) battle-tested tech solution.

The claims made by the Army and the claims made by Clearview to the Army haven’t been supported by any evidence from either party. Multiple requests for comments, clarifications, or supporting evidence went ignored by both the Army CID and its preferred facial recognition tech provider. Clearview also declined to explain what its marketing material [PDF] means when it claims its AI can help with “force protection and area security” or assist investigators in uncovering “criminal networks.”

It also didn’t explain this claim, which was almost immediately refuted by the party namechecked in the bullet point.

Later in the flyer, Clearview says that it’s been “rated 99.6% accurate” per an accuracy benchmark created by the University of Washington’s MegaFace image dataset. This claim hasn’t been independently verified by any third party.

“We don’t know how they tested their software, and we haven’t evaluated their algorithms,” Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, former head of the MegaFace challenge, told Insider. “The MegaFace challenge has been closed for a while now, and no one on our teams is working with it.”

This tracks with Clearview’s previous accuracy assertions. It makes claims but refuses to allow any outside testing of its algorithm. Until it’s willing to do that, there’s no reason anyone — much less the investigative wing of the US Army — should test drive its tech, much less purchase fifteen licenses. The CID is playing with fire here, and those overseeing this division should be demanding answers from Clearview, and blocking access to its tech until it has something more solid than the company’s questionable accuracy claims to work with.

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Companies: clearview

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Comments on “US Army Now Using Clearview's Unproven Tech To Investigate Crimes”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why complain

Well, for one, being "right-wing" isn’t a crime. There are, of course, terrorists-in-waiting and those actively involved with the sorts of militias who plot insurrections and other illegal actions, but FR is hardly a requirement to figure out who those people may be, and why use a shoddy and shady system to find anything? Which leads right into the concept of investigating people who give a reason for investigators to investigate, rather than some BS FR (or other) system spitting out "leads" which largely generate harrassment.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

TheLizard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why complain

Well, sure, I agree.

But… this is techdirt. They will support ANYTHING – censorship, reeducation camps, spying and warrantless search and seizure, indefinite detention, etc.,etc. as long as the target is "the right wing" or even "right-wing adjacent". I’ve seen it over and over. They’ll even support wealthy oligarchs that are known to exploit working class labor as long as they’re "woke".

So it’s weird to see them taking the other side on this. Not like they have any principles.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why complain

But… this is techdirt. They will support ANYTHING – censorship, reeducation camps, spying and warrantless search and seizure, indefinite detention, etc.,etc. as long as the target is "the right wing"

Lol wut? When have we ever supported any such thing?

We’re completely anti-partisan. We stand by our principles on all of those things — we’re against censorship, reeducation camps, spying, warrantless searches, indefinite detention for anyone of either party.

Hell, we’re frequently accused of being right wing ourselves. What a lazy troll.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Why complain

It’s on you to find one (ONE – JUST ONE) civil rights case the ACLU has taken on in the last 10 years where they defended someone to the right of AOC.

Hmm. Okay.

ACLU defended Jason Kessler when Charlottesville tried to remove his permit for the Unite the Right rally:

ACLU defended Milo Yiannopoulos when the DC metro banned his ads:

ACLU amicus brief in support of a Tea Party folks who were upset about a Minnesota law banning them from speech at polling places:

ACLU teaming up with the NRA for gun rights:

ACLU defending teacher who posted anti-LGBTQ slures on social media:

ACLU amicus brief against gerrymandering that favored Democrats:

ACLU supporting guns rights advocates being censored by Vermont’s governor:

ACLU challenging Arkansas State when it tried to stop conservative Turning Point USA from gathering signatures:

ACLU supporting anti-semitic protests in front of a synagogue:

I could go on, but I’ve got shit to do.

I await your apology.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Why complain

find one (ONE – JUST ONE) civil rights case the ACLU has taken on in the last 10 years where they defended someone to the right of AOC.

I’ll wait.

I hope you were not holding your breath while you waited, because you could have turned blue. It took Mike about three-quarters of a day to put up a long list for you. Yes, a good chunk of that time was hours of sleeping and probably some time spent eating and working as well. That would not make you any less blue from oxygen deprivation, however.

Anonymous Coward says:

It dont matter whether its the police, security forces or a service, if there is a way of screwing over an ordinary person, even if that person hasn’t done anything wrong, its being found and being used! I wonder when the planet is actually going to wake up and see what’s going on? It seems to me to be a hell of a lot like what was going on in Germany about 100 years ago that led to worldwide confrontation and all the evil and death and destruction that was associted. There’s bad stuff on the horizon and considering what the usa was formed for, what it’s meant to protect, things dont look how they were meant to!

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

In all Techdirts "wisdom"

Techdirt just somehow seems to ignore the obvious. Joe Biden is destroying the country. I don’t see an article about that. Hmm.. Could it be, that Techdirt will ignore these facts, and would rather publish half ass articles, or trash that misrepresents Jan6th to push a false narrative, with false Bias statments?

Has anyone noticed that this is Techdirt at it’s best? I would argue it’s worst!

Ya know, with the whole anti police/law enforcement/military, woke agenda…

TheLizard (profile) says:

Re: In all Techdirts "wisdom"

I got fed up with they cheered the demise of Parler.

Parler was the most popular download on Android and Apple app stores by far, and some BS article made a completely unsupported claim that insurrectionists organized on Parler, an assertion proven false at this point, but Google and Apple jumped at the chance to ban the app. Then AOC made a public statement excoriating Amazon for allowing Parler to rent space on their servers, so Jeff Bezos obediently kicked them off.

And TechDirt celebrated this blatant censorship of online discourse, 100% taking the side of the globalist oligarchs and establishment government authoritarians over a little start-up company that had become the most popular social media app download in America.

It’s just gone downhill from there.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: In all Techdirts "wisdom"

I got fed up with they cheered the demise of Parler.

Where did I "cheer" the demise of Parler? Ignoring that Parler is still around, and therefore, there was no actual "demise," I explained why it made me uncomfortable and that I thought it was good that there was competition. What I did explain was the many reasons why the separate decisions by private companies made sense, including noting that Parler had many alternatives to setup systems to return (as it has since done).

I did not "cheer" the demise of Parler.

Why do you lie?

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