Ukraine Government Confirms It Is Using Clearview AI To Identify… Dead Russian Soldiers?

from the places-first-tick-mark-in-'not-evil'-column dept

Last week, Reuters broke the quasi-news that Clearview had offered its tech to the war effort in Ukraine. According to statements made solely by the company and its CEO, Hoan Ton-That, the Ukraine government was using Clearview’s 10-billion facial image database (all scraped for free from the open web) to identify dead bodies, point out Russian traitors within their midst, and (somehow) combat misinformation.

Some verification of Clearview’s claims has finally arrived. And it only confirms one-third of the facial recognition tech company’s claims. And it may be generous to call this “one-third.” (h/t Michael Vario)

Ukraine is using facial recognition software to identify the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in combat and to trace their families to inform them of their deaths, Ukraine’s vice prime minister told Reuters.

The reality is far more compassionate than Clearview’s self-serving press release that was reported without skepticism by Reuters. Clearview said its AI would be used to identify Russian soldiers, giving the impression it would lead to acts of reprisal by Ukraine combatants. Instead, the government is using the AI in the best possible way: to identify soldiers sent on Vladimir Putin’s fool’s errand so that their families may properly mourn their lost ones and (hopefully) direct their anger towards the shitty government that determined this sacrifice was necessary.

Make no mistake: Clearview is still super-shitty. That it has temporarily clad itself in yellow and blue doesn’t change anything. Clearview could have offered its AI to any number of war-torn nations but did nothing until it found a socially acceptable battlefield that mainly involved white combatants before it engaged its dormant largesse. Like any other facial recognition AI, the software works better when it has white male faces to work with and this battle between Ukraine and Russia is loaded with the sort of faces this tech is built to handle.

If nothing else, this effort may produce better estimates of the death toll in Ukraine. The Russian government hasn’t updated its Ukraine war death toll since March 2. At that point, it claimed it had only lost 498 soldiers. Ukraine government estimates put the number of Russian soldier deaths somewhere north of 15,000.

Ukraine — despite being invaded by a megalomaniacal despot — continues to retain its humanity. It has created an online portal Russian families can use to search for information about loved ones involved in this war. Using this portal, Russians can claim the bodies of dead combatants, something the Ukraine government appears to believe is the least it can do while being attacked by a former KGB shitlord who can’t fathom why non-Russian countries would resist his heavy-handed, missile-lobbing overtures.

The downside here is that, while the intention may be pure, the tech is imperfect.

Richard Bassed, head of the forensic medicine department at Monash University in Australia, said fingerprints, dental records and DNA remain the most common ways of confirming someone’s identity.


But clouded eyes and injured and expressionless faces potentially make facial recognition unreliable on the dead, said Bassed, who has been researching the technology.

But the effort continues. The Ukraine government has proven far more compassionate and aware of the limitations of the tech than its temporary benefactor. That the Ukraine government has chosen to use Clearview’s AI to reunite Russians with their deceased loved ones reflects well on only one party: the Ukraine government. Clearview never even suggested this option when it was busy blowing its own horn last week. Clearview is still garbage. That one entity has chosen to use it for good doesn’t change anything.

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Companies: clearview, clearview ai

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Comments on “Ukraine Government Confirms It Is Using Clearview AI To Identify… Dead Russian Soldiers?”

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David says:

The Ukraine has info lines for missing Russian soldiers

Russians can call there and get information about the whereabouts of their family members (if known) and psychological support. Make no mistake: this is a propaganda tool. But the message it carries is personal and is pretty much impossible to override with Kremlin propaganda.

Only Russians can defeat Putin: Russia’s territory is far too large for any attack on its territory to end up pervasive.

This is the only kind of counteroffensive that can hope to be effective. If Ukraine uses Clearview technology for identifying dead (and captured or prohibited from communication) Russian soldiers for the sake of their families and relatives, they are using it in the most likely effective manner for stopping Putin’s war and propaganda machine from being effective on their targets.

A huge part of Putin’s war efforts is writing a justifying narrative. And Putin had the hubris of attacking a country led by a former comedian and TV actor who has shown that he knows how to move and motivate people and bring out their best and who is a native Russian speaker.

Zelenskyy is taking the battle into Russia, and his weapons are words and humanity. So this use of Clearview technology makes perfect sense and is likely much more effective in the war than the kind of use Clearview would have imagined.

Charles Johnson says:


What an absurd argument.

Cushing cites 2019 data but Clearview didn’t even sit for the NIST test until 2021 and it won second place worldwide. The no. 1 spot? Why, that would be SenseTime, a Chinese firm.

The reason other surveillance companies don’t like Clearview is because Clearview is better than they are and that’s been empirical proven, repeatedly.

The solution to the problem of biased samples is to collect still more data, not less.

Look, we get it. You guys have a bias against facial recognition. The rest of the world doesn’t care.

Where are the interviews from the people who have actually used the technology in the field and how can that Australian academic “study” the matter when Clearview is banned in Australia?

Basic logic, please.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ben (profile) says:

Re: Dog tags and name tags?

I think it’s highly unlikely that Russian conscripted infantry would have dog tags – that’s a very US thing not common to all armed forces by any means.
And going to the expense and complexity (!) of customising the cheapest infantry fatigues you can imagine does not seem a very Russian mega-army kind of thing to waste money on.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
David says:


You are assuming that the Russian army wants its soldiers to be identified. But they are bullshitting their own populace a lot more than they are bullshitting the rest of the world. They don’t want the Russians in Russia to know who is where and why. It doesn’t match their news.

That’s the exact reason identification services set up by the Ukraine are such a powerful weapon.

David says:


Identifying the dead by those means would have to wait until hostilities end

Do you mean the hostilities of Russian government against Russian conscripts and citizens? Because the problem is not that the Ukraine would be averse to passing identifying information to Russia, but that the Russian government is averse to passing that information to its citizens.

It doesn’t match the stories of the humanitarian mission of heroes distributing food packages among “ethnic Russians” in East Ukraine that have called for their benefactors from Russia to help them against a ruthless genocide by the Nazi soldiers and citizens of Ukraine.

The number and location of the resulting body bags does not match the Russian propaganda.

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