Clearview's Facial Recognition AI One Of The Best In The Business, Says NIST
from the man-but-what-a-business dept
Some good news for Clearview, the bottom dweller of the facial recognition field. The prodigious scraper of web content has finally submitted its algorithm (the one it actually sells to government agencies) to the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) and has obtained a score that justifies its frequent blustering about how accurate its AI is. Here’s Kashmir Hill with the details for the New York Times.
In results announced on Monday, Clearview, which is based in New York, placed among the top 10 out of nearly 100 facial recognition vendors in a federal test intended to reveal which tools are best at finding the right face while looking through photos of millions of people. Clearview performed less well in another version of the test, which simulates using facial recognition for providing access to buildings, such as verifying that someone is an employee.
This vindicates CEO Hoan Ton-That’s heretofore unproven claims that Clearview’s AI is one of the best in the business. Prior to this, the only data backing Ton-That’s assertions came from an internal test performed by a non-independent entity. Now, Ton-That can add the NIST results to his company’s sales pitches, which may make it a bit more palatable to government agencies on the fence about shelling out tax dollars for a sordid little product with an unproven AI. Its previous submission to NIST tested its one-to-one AI (something used to unlock phones, for instance) — a feature Clearview does not use and does not market to customers.
But this is hardly a vindication of Clearview as a whole, much less its business model. Scraping the open web for images is a really shady way to generate a database — one that now holds more than 10 billion images. The more hay you put in the haystack, the greater the chances of confusing hay for needles. And these results don’t change what’s already wrong with all facial recognition tech: the fact that it’s always worse when it comes to correctly identifying anyone other than white males.
It also won’t make Clearview’s web-scraping ways any more acceptable or legal. It has been evicted from two countries (Canada and Australia) for violating national privacy laws. It is being sued in two US states for the same reason. And it has become a pariah in an industry full of morally-suspect tech purveyors — a company so unseemly even other bottom feeders marketing biased tech to cop shops refuse to have anything to do with it.
And it won’t make CEO Hoan Ton-That any less full of shit. This test may have proven Clearview has the AI chops to run with the big boys, but it doesn’t change the fact that his claims about helping law enforcement clear cases have been continually rebutted by the law enforcement agencies he says relied on his tech to find dangerous criminals. As long as Clearview remains solvent, it is a threat to people’s freedoms and safety. If the NIST test results in more customers for Clearview, it will increase the chance someone will be misidentified and put at the mercy of people with a whole lot of guns and power.