Documents Show Clearview Is Selling Facial Recognition Tech To Retailers, Fitness Centers, And Human Rights Violators

from the should-just-be-honest-since-it's-all-going-to-come-out-anyway dept

Clearview -- the latest (and most troubling) entrant into the facial recognition tech sweepstakes -- says it's product is just for law enforcement. And law enforcement has seemingly welcomed the web-scraped facial recognition database with open arms. Clearview's marketing documents claim the company works with over 900 law enforcement agencies in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

Clearview's app puts the agencies a few clicks away from over three billion images scraped from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Those being scraped aren't happy about it but there's little they can do but engage in some cease-and-desist shouting.

But Clearview's claim that it's only making this available to law enforcement agencies is false. New documents, obtained by BuzzFeed, show the company is selling its product to a number of other entities, both public and private.

The internal documents, which were uncovered by a source who declined to be named for fear of retribution from the company or the government agencies named in them, detail just how far Clearview has been able to distribute its technology, providing it to people everywhere, from college security departments to attorneys general offices, and in countries from Australia to Saudi Arabia.

That's the public sector buy-in. Here's the private sector's investment.

More than 200 companies have Clearview accounts, according to the documents, including major stores like Kohl’s and Walmart and banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. While some of these entities have formal contracts with Clearview, the majority — as with public sector entities — appear to have only used the facial recognition software on free trials.

This list also includes a number of entertainment venues, casinos, fitness centers, and, oddly enough, the NBA.

So, it's not just for cops. That might explain the company's hands-off attitude towards the entities it has publicly acknowledged it works with. Cops are encouraged to test-drive the software by searching friends and family members. Nothing like encouraging misuse right off the bat to dissuade law enforcement officers from using this tool for personal evil.

As BuzzFeed notes, most of these appear to be limited trials of Clearview's software. But a few private entities are apparently paying for the privilege of running security camera footage against Clearview's scraped-together database.

Company logs reviewed by BuzzFeed News include Walmart (nearly 300 searches), Best Buy (more than 200 searches), grocer Albertsons (more than 40 searches), and Rite Aid (about 35 searches). Kohl’s, which has run more than 2,000 searches across 11 different accounts, and Macy’s, a paying customer that has completed more than 6,000, are among the private companies with the most searches.

Meanwhile, US agencies are enthusiastically participating in the exploitation of this crowdsourced (so to speak…) database. BuzzFeed notes the CBP has already registered 280 accounts and run almost 7,500 searches. The Secret Service isn't far behind, having run 5,600 searches. Other federal customers include the DEA, ATF, and FBI.

Clearview has also stated its plan for international expansion begins and ends with Canada. This has already been exposed as untrue, but information in these documents shows how aggressively Clearview is pursuing customers around the world.

It shows that Clearview AI has expanded to at least 26 countries outside the US, engaging national law enforcement agencies, government bodies, and police forces in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

And while Clearview's CEO has promised not to sell to "adverse" countries like North Korea, China, and Iran, this is the only line it appears to have drawn. The documents show Clearview has offered its software to agencies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- both notorious violators of human rights.

Clearview clearly can't be trusted. It has spent its limited time in the public eye lying about what it does and who it does it with. Hopefully, the endless negative press will deter its growth. Unfortunately, there's an undeniable market for unregulated facial recognition tech and Clearview's promise of billions of photos to match faces against beats everything else offered by anyone else. As long as the market exists, Clearview will fill it.

Filed Under: customers, facial recognition, law enforcement
Companies: clearview, clearview ai


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2020 @ 2:34pm

    We need to Tell Trump this capability is a national resource

    If the president is convinced that tech like this could help other countries at the expense of our own, we would have companies like this restricted legally from doing business outside our borders. Clearly trusting the companies is not working.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Feb 2020 @ 2:46pm

      What’s sad/funny is that your idea might actually work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2020 @ 4:54pm

        Re:

        Trump is an idiot so as long as you could convince him that it was his idea then you're good to go.

        Remember, this is the guy who put Mike Pence in charge of our response to the Coronavirus. The same man who ignored an outbreak of HIV in the town/city he was governor of!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2020 @ 2:42pm

    tech countermeasures

    thus a rather sleazy company selling a perfectly legal and profitable product.

    Not much can be done, except to seek practicqal countermeasures to facial recognition technology itself.

    Digital cameras have many inherent vulnerabilities and limitations.
    There's gotta be big profits in that tech market too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2020 @ 3:32pm

    Strange ... these people are acting like the stupid thing actually works.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 28 Feb 2020 @ 3:38pm

    international expansion begins and ends with Canada

    Easy. You start in Canada, go through every other country on the planet via the "travelling salesman" path, and end in Canada. Simples!

    "it's product is just for law enforcement."

    Well they just didn't specify WHOSE laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2020 @ 8:01pm

    It's obvious that the only facial recognition that Clearview respects is the faces printed on the money they are being paid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anoncowie, 29 Feb 2020 @ 1:11am

    Such a boon to ID theft

    Were I one that wanted to steal ID's or impersonate, I'd need only to search for faces like mine, and voila, my next victims are handed to me like heads on a platter. One of the genuine outcomes of the naive notions that we all brought to the "information highway", where the downsides of theft, gerrymandering, and milspec trolling never made it into the discussion is that we now all suffer immensely from those malignancies. Let's fail to learn from the past, and shoot the other foot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 29 Feb 2020 @ 1:36am

    Ok

    I suggested this thing happening already.
    REAL LIFE ID..
    How to prove who is who?

    1. release all data about everyone. Make it look like an accident or other, but release all the data.
    2. this makes it look like Criminals can Steal your ID..Fake this fake that.
    3. Federal/state ID. AND DOT(dept of transport) NOW keeps all those DMV photos..
    4. Corps Find a way to demand a way or Proof of who you are. As Credit/debit cards are NOT fool proof, no matter what they say. And banks can now claim all the info has been released and we need Proven ID.

    This is good and bad. Proving Who used your CC/DC is kinda easy IF we take your picture while you do it.
    Proving WHO voted, and scanning all the pictures can show if there is a fake vote. Just 1 can force a WHOLE section of a state NOT to be counted until proven real.

    Now the fun parts.. How to make Permanent ID.
    We got pictures, we got all your DATA including medical(if you dont know many Clinics have been hacked). WE/THEY/SOEMONE can put all this together and Prove who is who and place it in a book or computer...and NOW we need to get Facial ID.

    Corps learned a lesson from our gov. long ago. ITS illegal where??, then lets go somewhere else.. And make it happen Where we want it to, and its Not illegal.. Bestiality is still legal in 6 USA states... Main Address for most Credit cards is in ???? can you guess? its in Delaware..

    https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/why-so-many-of-your-credit-cards-come-from-d elaware/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Feb 2020 @ 1:09pm

    Why Single Out Retailers and Fitness Centers?

    "...Clearview Is Selling Facial Recognition Tech To Retailers, Fitness Centers, And Human Rights Violators"

    Clearview Is Selling Facial Recognition Tech To Human Rights Violators of the Retailers subclass, Human Rights Violators of the Fitness Centers subclass, And Human Rights Violators of other subclasses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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