Clearview Is Now Selling Its AI To App Developers, School Security Contractors

from the how-could-this-possibly-go-wrong dept

Well, this doesn’t sound like a good idea. The company that recently swore in court filings it would cease and desist sales to all private companies in the United States is offering its product to a number of private companies elsewhere in the world. And it’s courting private contractors doing business with government entities in the United States with a product that would collect data on minors.

Here’s Paresh Dave, reporting for Reuters:

Clearview AI is expanding sales of its facial recognition software to companies from mainly serving the police, it told Reuters, inviting scrutiny on how the startup capitalizes on billions of photos it scrapes from social media profiles.


Instead of online photo comparisons, the new private-sector offering matches people to ID photos and other data that clients collect with subjects’ permission. It is meant to verify identities for access to physical or digital spaces.

Vaale, a Colombian app-based lending startup, said it was adopting Clearview to match selfies to user-uploaded ID photos.

None of this violates the agreement reached in Illinois, where Clearview was successfully sued for violating the state’s privacy laws with its web-scraped collection of photos and personal data. The agreement only forbids sales of its original, 10-billion web-scraped image database to private companies or to Illinois state/local government agencies.

It still has permission to sell to other US government agencies. And nothing forbids it from courting foreign private companies, like the one discussed above.

Selling to private companies in the United States may appear to violate the settlement agreement, but the loophole is there for exploitation:

For the avoidance of doubt, this Private Entity Ban in no way limits Clearview’s ability to work with federal government agencies (or State government agencies outside of Illinois) and contractors engaged in authorized support for and under contracts with such government agencies at all levels and locations.

Which is how this sort of thing happens:

Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That said a U.S. company selling visitor management systems to schools had signed up as well.

It’s not just a private company. It’s a government contractor. The agreement says Clearview can still do this. And so it is, even if many of its critics aren’t happy Clearview may soon be handling school security by proxy.

The company’s CEO says there’s nothing to worry about. According to Ton-That, the data used for 1:1 matches that will apparently identify students and staff will not be shared with other Clearview customers or allowed to intermingle with the company’s haystack of web scrapings.

And maybe it won’t! Maybe Clearview will capably silo its private offerings to ensure its 1:1 match offerings aren’t trawling its massive collection of internet data, which could easily lead to mismatches or abusive searches. But all we have to go on is the assurances of a CEO who has previously been caught lying about his company’s relationship with law enforcement agencies and its usefulness during criminal investigations.

Clearview does have an accurate product. But that doesn’t excuse how it got here: by clearcutting public-facing websites and selling access to this scraped data to everyone from bored billionaires to human rights violators. The company needs to earn a whole lot more trust before anyone should feel comfortable with it deciding who can or can’t access loans or, especially here in active shooter capital of the world, who may or may not enter a school.

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Companies: clearview, clearview ai

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Comments on “Clearview Is Now Selling Its AI To App Developers, School Security Contractors”

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Upstream (profile) says:

Clearview does have an accurate product.

According to this:

“But the test that Clearview took reveals how accurate its algorithm is at correctly matching two different photos of the same person, not how accurate it is at finding a match for an unknown face in a database of 10 billion of them.”

It is a big and extremely significant difference that should always be pointed out.

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