Clearview AI Walks Back Earlier Claims, Is Now Willing To Sell Its Sketchy Product To Anyone With Money And A Pulse

from the Clearview:-fuck-it,-we-never-really-had-any-standards dept

If only Clearview had managed to remain under the radar. If it had, it could have been the stealth privacy assassin multiple entities (both public and private) desire, but are unwilling to admit to using publicly. Even the rest of the facial recognition tech field wants nothing to do with Clearview and the billions of images/data points it has scraped from the public web. Clearview remains alone in its extreme odiousness — a villain rising head and shoulders above its already questionable competition.

But the exposure of Clearview and its tactics (which began with a report by Kashmir Hill for the New York Times) has led to plenty of former and potential customers distancing themselves from CEO Hoan Ton-That’s ethically abhorrent product. Law enforcement agencies have frequently contradicted claims made by Clearview about the company’s contributions to crimefighting and its overall accuracy.

Multiple governments have fined, sued, expelled, and declared Clearview’s tech to be illegal. In response to lawsuits and overseas scrutiny, Clearview promised to limit its sales to government agencies.

Clearview apparently feels it no longer needs to keep that promise. It jumped on the Ukraine war bandwagon to offer gratis access to the Ukraine government to identify victims of Russian attacks, Russian attackers, and combat misinformation. The Ukraine government took the high road, utilizing Clearview and the millions of images scraped from Russian Facebook-equivalent VKontakte to identify dead Russian soldiers so Russian families could reclaim bodies, mourn their dead, and achieve some sort of closure.

Apparently, Clearview feels offering its service to a war that involved mostly white male victims is all the permission it needs to get back on its bullshit. The promise it made months ago about limiting its sales to government agencies has been discarded. (h/t Ryan Mac)

A controversial face recognition company that’s built a massive photographic dossier of the world’s people for use by police, national governments and — most recently — the Ukrainian military is now planning to offer its technology to banks and other private businesses.

Clearview AI co-founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That disclosed the plans Friday to The Associated Press in order to clarify a recent federal court filing that suggested the company was up for sale.

“Controversial” undersells things a bit. Clearview is terrible. There is no excusing its behavior, especially its reversal of a pledge to only sell to government agencies. Rolling that back means Clearview is unwilling to subject itself to even minimal levels of oversight. And it indicates the company wishes to fully monetize its questionable offerings at the expense of members of the public, who will have almost zero recourse options when a private party (utilizing services from another private party) declares them to be criminals.

Clearview claims — without supporting evidence or enforceable contracts — that its move back to courting private customers will be beyond public approach.

The new “consent-based” product would use Clearview’s algorithms to verify a person’s face, but would not involve its ever-growing trove of some 20 billion images, which Ton-That said is reserved for law enforcement use. Such ID checks that can be used to validate bank transactions or for other commercial purposes are the “least controversial use case” of facial recognition, he said.

lol. whatever. This promise of a better Clearview at some point in the undetermined future should be taken with enough salt it might be wise to consult a physician.

You — a presumably normal user of the open internet — will continue to generate “content” that can be scraped at will by the only facial recognition company willing to scrape content on the regular. It scales because the internet scales. 10 billion images is only the starting point. Most of the world is now flying Ukraine’s blue and gold but a facial recognition remora attached to underside of a popular resistance effort is still a parasite.

Clearview’s laundering of its reputation via free access shared with the Ukraine government doesn’t mean the company has decided it will be a more responsible caretaker of scraped data. It will very likely continued to be fined and sued in perpetuity since it has apparently decided the most direct route to profitability is maximum exploitation of the billions of records it obtained without anyone’s consent. Every “promise” made by Clearview while being investigated, sued, or fined should be considered suspect. Its database is a crime of opportunity. And its assertions seem to be more related to the current crisis facing the company, rather than the result of soul-searching by a company that seems to be devoid of one.

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Companies: clearview, clearview ai

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Comments on “Clearview AI Walks Back Earlier Claims, Is Now Willing To Sell Its Sketchy Product To Anyone With Money And A Pulse”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Trust me said the liar

Clearview: We will only sell to government agencies.

Five minutes later

… and any private company that pays us, but we pinky promise we won’t be cross-checking it against our absurdly large collection of images we grabbed from every site we could scrape them from.

Five minutes later…

Paul Neubauer says:

Clearview has done nothing wrong.

Clearview has done nothing wrong.

All the images they have they have gotten lawfully. All they are doing is identifying public images to their data base.

How exactly is only selling to governments a good thing?

The only question is if their algorithm actually works.

The complaints are bullshit.

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