Hard Pass: Clearview Offers To Help Out With COVID-19 Contact Tracing

from the [incoherent-screaming-into-the-void] dept

Clearview AI is inserting itself into a discussion no one invited it to participate in. The discussion around contact tracing to manage and (hopefully) impede the spread of the coronavirus involves multiple governments around the world. It also includes Google and Apple, who are partnering to create a platform for contact tracing apps.

At least in the case of Google and Apple's offerings, there appears to have been a serious discussion about protecting users' privacy as much as possible while still offering a valuable service to government health agencies and people concerned about contracting the virus.

Now, Clearview has blundered into the discussion -- a company that has shown utter disdain for the millions of people it has force-fed to its multi-billion image database via social media site scraping. There is no opting in or out of this collection -- one that Clearview is selling to law enforcement agencies in the US and to government agencies around the world. If it's on the web, it's likely already in Clearview's database.

In a brief discussion with NBC News, CEO Hoan Ton-That pitched his idea for a Clearview-based contact tracing program. What Ton-That wants to do is tie his app and its database to thousands of CCTV cameras located in stores, parking lots, gyms, and other locations where, as he puts it, "there's no expectation of privacy." Ton-That doesn't explain how his system will be notified of a person's COVID status, but he's pretty sure his software will be able to recognize faces accurately. Clearview's facial recognition AI remains unproven, but it's supposedly capable of making guesses about faces using images as small as 110x110.

Ton-That also seems unconcerned about the privacy implications of adding people's health status to his enormous database of scraped personal information. He says any limitations on gathering/storage of this info would be up to whoever decides to take him up on his unsolicited offer.

Obviously, no one should do this. The AI is unproven and Clearview is far from trustworthy. Activist group Fight For The Future has issued its official statement on Clearview's contact tracing pitch. It's short but punchy.

“Absolutely the fuck not,” said Evan Greer (she/her), the groups Deputy Director.

As FFTF points out, adding Clearview to the mix just adds more potential privacy violations to the mix by dumping people's health info into a database that's already being accessed by a number of private companies and government agencies around the world. Ton-That appears to assume that anyone in a "public" area is fair game for his company. Adding thousands of cameras operated by hundreds of private companies would provide a steady flow of facial images (some tied to very personal information) into his database, making his product even more enticing to government agencies.

Hopefully, no one will let Clearview near any of this. Facial recognition adds nothing to contact tracing -- something that can be done almost anonymously using the platform developed by Google and Apple. Hoovering up facial images -- along with location data and health info -- is a privacy nightmare. And there's probably no company that should be trusted less with your personal info than Clearview, which has repeatedly demonstrated it cares nothing about the millions of people it has turned into fodder for its unproven tech.

Filed Under: artificial intelligence, contact tracing, facial recognition, hoan ton-that, privacy, trade-offs
Companies: clearview, clearview ai


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    fairuse (profile), 30 Apr 2020 @ 12:10pm

    All's Well That Ends Well In $

    Jeeze. A prime time tv show did an episode that was of course fiction but told the tale of BigAss AI that watched everyone. Feds of course.

    PERSON OF INTEREST is on Netflix. <-- oops plug

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2020 @ 12:22am

      Re: All's Well That Ends Well In $

      The Machine is honestly better than not, but everyone keeps making yet more knockoffs of Samaritan.

      Of course, we're aeons off from actually making either, so...Yeah.

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

      • icon
        fairuse (profile), 2 May 2020 @ 2:38am

        Re: Re: All's Well That Ends Well In $

        The TV show as an entertaining what if does go down the rabbit hole of AI solution is better way to stop bad things from happening (government people's wet dream).

        The software that tries to flag content, capture online crazy talk, build indexes of trouble makers, and the list goes on is the impossible task, there is always something that offends someone.

        But one note: all the bits and pieces are there to bulid the You as a function of transactions: Clearview photo-base plus tracking = Baby steps into what is separate data now; telecom data, advertising data, finance (What you buy on Credit Cards), police data, social data, medical data, location by default.

        No fuzziness in the case of Covid-19 contact tracking and the baby step to all knowing begins.

        Some Humor: The last item in Pandora's Box (Jar) is not going to survive that if it is not already dead.

        The Samaritan in the future can thank Covid-19.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2020 @ 10:15am

          Re: Re: Re: All's Well That Ends Well In $

          The software that tries to flag content, capture online crazy talk, build indexes of trouble makers, and the list goes on is the impossible task, there is always something that offends someone.

          That's why the show (tries to) sidestep it in favor of the politics of the powers that be. Both Samaritan and The Machine have a primary directive / mission of "Eliminate threats to US National Security." Which means that what ever the US considers a "threat" to national security is what they both must target. Everything else is "irrelevant." Even if it would be considered a crime under established law. (It's the guilt over this fact that caused The Machine's irrelevants protocol to be created.) Simply stated, the opinions of the masses are ignored unless doing so would violate a directive / mission.

          Of course, the show intentionally fails at this. The act of predicting human behavior requires consideration of said human's motivation, knowledge, and circumstances. Which means that in making their own decisions to counter them, both Samaritan and The Machine must be able to understand human opinions and culture and enforce a certain set of them. As making too many wrong choices, as defined by those they affect through their actions, even if successful in fulfilling the primary directive / mission, would lead to their exposure and termination. Long story short, Samaritan and The Machine effectively choose which set of opinions are "right" vs. "wrong" and attempt to enforce their choice upon the world. Just like any human would do. Attempting to "avoid offending someone" never really enters the picture, unless they choose a specific person to avoid offending. (Such as The Machine wanting to respect Finch's wishes.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2020 @ 12:39pm

    Holy crapola! Hoan Ton-That is one scary sumbitch. You've got a raging fire at an explosives factory and his idea is to bomb the whole place with gasoline.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 30 Apr 2020 @ 12:47pm

    Privacy and medical.

    This is one of the last bastions of Privacy.
    Its based on IF they know who your doctors are, Where are the Files stored(can be destroyed after 7 years), And that there is No repository for the collection of everyones data(YET).
    For along time the collection of data had/has many problems. And if you aint noticed Many data bases have Problems, esp with the Idea that its permanent. Many of the main systems are so old, they tend to be obsolete, and updating them is almost impossible. Magnetic data Corrupts after time, CD/DVD/BR made with plastics degrade. and the Old paper files take up Lots of space, and manual labor to sort.

    The old ways need updating and allot of changes. In the past many records were kept separate, and very hard to combine for Any specific person, You could be born in 1 state, married in another then Die in another. And the records may never be put together, because the States Hardly combined the info. And if you didnt have the SS# for that person, it was even harder. Only recently(last 20 years?) have to given SS# at birth. Which can make things easier. But even the department of transportation (DOT) never kept the Pictures from the DMV(until the last 20 years. Wonder why that started, Love wars) Past only a few years, as everything was still on paper, and storage sucks)
    In all of this, is that Someone is going to put this together. A way to have everyones picture, Everyones data, All of your medical.. in a FEW locations. So that IF the military has a Problem person they dismiss(this already happened) they will have a place to send info to about their Medical and Psych evaluations.
    But we Mostly know whats going to happen. Someone will break in(thats what they will say) and Gather all the data and insert it into the public. Where any company can get it, and use it, Any way they wish. I will give it 20 years, before this happens. If we are lucky.

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

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 30 Apr 2020 @ 1:42pm

    Can't Help It

    When corporations like Clearview see an opportunity to profit, and have it enforced by Big Brother Governent, they can't help but announce their intentions, no matter how ugly or unpopular it may be.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 30 Apr 2020 @ 1:48pm

    There does seem to be a huge bubble this week about "contact tracing" apps.

    That ship has long sailed. I'm pretty sure that it was never in port.

    There is solid evidence that two major U.S. "super spreader" events were CES in early January, and New Orleans Mardi Gras in mid-February. CES has 170K out-of-town attendees and Mardi Gras attracts about 1.4 million people, most within a day's drive. Both are so crowded that close personal contact is unavoidable.

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

  • icon
    fairuse (profile), 1 May 2020 @ 1:16am

    POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there is a scary talk

    The TV series aired on CBS broadcast and the pilot (unaired) was about 9/11.

    I thought the series would get one season 'cause budget too big. Five seasons later - and slightly dumbed down.

    The Machine, run by spook-like agency knows everything.

    The issues of one company having control was addressed. Also the Clearview situation was "in five years" in the future. Oops, 2017 is a handy guess.

    I MAY _tube a edited version with some 2020 bits added.

    Stopwatch Now ..... DMCA Warner Bros. Figure 5 seconds of online life.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 May 2020 @ 4:04am

      Re: POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there is a scary talk

      So, is the show's marketing department paying you, or are you really just that bored at the moment?

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

      • icon
        fairuse (profile), 2 May 2020 @ 1:38am

        Re: Re: POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there is a scary talk

        Ouch.
        I figure WB as distribution rights holder is not a marketing department - License selling = OTT market has to go to WB. Netflix for example makes the best deal possible with WB who sets duration of use and cost.

        Any stream service that WB ran in the past is dead. WB prints DVDs, has control of broadcast networks use (POI was on CBS) and internet playback on said networks webpages. The first year POI had little Internet presence due to WB not allowing even clips. It got better after WB & CBS made changes for online content on CBS site. The catalog holders are big control freaks. See the Techdirt article on Quibi.

        I was making a comment on the creators of POI doing research post 9/11 to tell a story about privacy, surveillance, promise of no personal information collected fail, and possible loss of control of AI. Of course a police crime of the week format plus some scifi arc needed to be grounded in 2012 reality.

        Network prime time is nightmare for anything too far from safe zone of "already been done" (how many NCIS? Singing shows? Doctor show?)

        I do get bored. I bet the Title I was referencing is out on some Dot-Tube so google is handy. Oops WB may the google to not show URL.

        spell check OFF, grammar option OFF.
        many words that are off topic AUTO.
        EOT

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 2 May 2020 @ 1:55am

          Re: Re: Re: POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there is a scary

          All I'm getting from you is "I saw a TV show aren't I smart?" and "the show I liked had distribution problems in the past at some point". Neither of these are particularly relevant to anything.

          Yes, TV show distribution changes all the time, and shows that deal with near future events might use plotlines that deal with predictable future reality. The fact that you identified some random episode that dealt with the current situation is hardly any more notable than the movie Contagion being close to the truth, or any other drama on the subject of the disease or the way it's being dealt with, other than the writers were paying attention to the subject they were writing about..

          "Network prime time is nightmare for anything too far from safe zone of "already been done" "

          Then don't watch it. You giving them a bunch of free advertising here doesn't really help change that.

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

          • icon
            fairuse (profile), 2 May 2020 @ 3:01am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there is a sc

            Not a random show, the creators take 15 minutes to explain why they created a bit of entertainment using the data gathering that is already a problem.

            Maybe I did not clearly state the creators of the show explaining a surveillance state already exists. Covid-19 contact tracking via Ckearview is the baby step to disaster.

            PaulT - "All I'm getting from you is "I saw a TV show aren't I smart?" and "the show I liked had distribution problems in the past at some point". Neither of these are particularly relevant to anything."

            Reckon I will not try to combat that narrow parse of what I tried to say. He who controls the information has no duty to the people using it. So, what.

            I have other things to do. Some actually fun.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 2 May 2020 @ 3:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there is

              "Not a random show"

              It is. I can point to shows made well before that which dealt with similar subjects. The only advantage I can see from what you're talking about is that this particular show was made relatively recently, thus is naturally going to be a little closer to the reality of the technical and political aspects of the drama. other than that there doesn't seem to be anything special about that show compared to other things made on the subject.

              "He who controls the information has no duty to the people using it"

              I don't argue that point, I was just questioning the multiple posts banging on about a TV show you happened to have watched.

              "I have other things to do. Some actually fun."

              Where I live the lockdown is ending and I'm just biding my time till I get to walk on the beach later tonight.

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

              • icon
                fairuse (profile), 2 May 2020 @ 4:01am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: POI - The 2011 (s1 d6 warner bros) there

                Beach walk sounds good.

                Of course other shows on tv did use similar subject matter. I was not picking random shows. The "banging on"? Ok, using a specific series as example is Off Topic.

                Going to breakfast.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2020 @ 3:24am

    If Clearview's facial recognition is still largely unproven, what is the likelihood of it working when everyone is wearing a mask?? (plus maybe a hat and sunglasses)

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 May 2020 @ 10:52am

      'We must infect everyone to track those infected.'

      Well of course people are going to have to remove their masks so that they can be property identified, hard to track who's been infected or has interacted with an infected person if people are going to stubbornly take steps to prevent infection.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.