US Army Now Using Clearview's Unproven Tech To Investigate Crimes

from the sole-source-provider-of-a-service-no-one-else-is-willing-to-create dept

We can add another government agency to the list of entities that have been suckered in by Clearview's highly questionable sales pitches about its unproven tech: the US Army. [Paywall ahead, but alternatives abound.]

The US Army has a contract with Clearview AI, according to documents that reveal the controversial facial-recognition startup making bold claims to the military about capabilities such as "criminal network discovery" and "force protection and area security."

The contract, obtained with other documents by Insider via public-records request, shows the US military awarding a discounted contract for Clearview to work with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, which investigates serious crimes that could involve active service members or civilian workers for the Army.

Fantastic. Now, let's back up a bit to the opening paragraph. By "highly questionable," I mean many of Clearview's assertions about its crime fighting efficacy have been directly contradicted by law enforcement agencies who've test-driven the product. And by "unproven," I mean Clearview has never submitted its facial recognition AI to outside, independent testing -- like that performed by the NIST. And by "suckered in," I mean the Army fell for all of it, converting its test run of Clearview's tech into a sole-source contract for fifteen licenses.

The memo [PDF] obtained by Business Insider says Clearview is one of a kind.

Clearview Al provides unique and innovative capability with regard to facial recognition technology and its use by law enforcement organizations. The 502d MP BN (CID) has been using this tool on a trial basis and has seen an increase of 15%- 25% success in positively identifying potential subject, victims and witnesses in possible crimes under Army CID jusridiction. They were the only company capable of providing the service.

I'm not sure about that last sentence. It would read better as "the only company willing to provide the service." Unlike other, more reputable facial recognition tech providers, Clearview's database of facial photos and personal information is scraped from thousands of public websites and social media services. It isn't the only company capable of doing this. But so far, it's been the only one willing to scrape the web and sell access to its billions of harvested images.

That may make Clearview unique. But it doesn't make it good or reputable or tolerable. And if the CID is seeing more positive identifications, it's only because it has more images to work with. What it doesn't have is a (excuse the term) battle-tested tech solution.

The claims made by the Army and the claims made by Clearview to the Army haven't been supported by any evidence from either party. Multiple requests for comments, clarifications, or supporting evidence went ignored by both the Army CID and its preferred facial recognition tech provider. Clearview also declined to explain what its marketing material [PDF] means when it claims its AI can help with "force protection and area security" or assist investigators in uncovering "criminal networks."

It also didn't explain this claim, which was almost immediately refuted by the party namechecked in the bullet point.

Later in the flyer, Clearview says that it's been "rated 99.6% accurate" per an accuracy benchmark created by the University of Washington's MegaFace image dataset. This claim hasn't been independently verified by any third party.

"We don't know how they tested their software, and we haven't evaluated their algorithms," Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, former head of the MegaFace challenge, told Insider. "The MegaFace challenge has been closed for a while now, and no one on our teams is working with it."

This tracks with Clearview's previous accuracy assertions. It makes claims but refuses to allow any outside testing of its algorithm. Until it's willing to do that, there's no reason anyone -- much less the investigative wing of the US Army -- should test drive its tech, much less purchase fifteen licenses. The CID is playing with fire here, and those overseeing this division should be demanding answers from Clearview, and blocking access to its tech until it has something more solid than the company's questionable accuracy claims to work with.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: army, facial recognition, us army
Companies: clearview


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    TheLizard (profile), 24 Aug 2021 @ 1:37pm

    Why complain

    I don't get it. They're going to use it to go after "right wingers" and "potential insurrectionists" in the military.

    Why would you be against it?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2021 @ 2:00pm

    It dont matter whether its the police, security forces or a service, if there is a way of screwing over an ordinary person, even if that person hasn't done anything wrong, its being found and being used! I wonder when the planet is actually going to wake up and see what's going on? It seems to me to be a hell of a lot like what was going on in Germany about 100 years ago that led to worldwide confrontation and all the evil and death and destruction that was associted. There's bad stuff on the horizon and considering what the usa was formed for, what it's meant to protect, things dont look how they were meant to!

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Aug 2021 @ 3:12pm

    Yay another magic box that will be the gold standard until someone finally tells the emperor he is naked.
    Lets just hope it happens sooner rather than later, look at all the people STILL trying to get out of jail when the only 'evidence' connecting them was bite-mark "expert" testimony.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous, 25 Aug 2021 @ 9:41am

    In all Techdirts "wisdom"

    Techdirt just somehow seems to ignore the obvious. Joe Biden is destroying the country. I don't see an article about that. Hmm.. Could it be, that Techdirt will ignore these facts, and would rather publish half ass articles, or trash that misrepresents Jan6th to push a false narrative, with false Bias statments?

    Has anyone noticed that this is Techdirt at it's best? I would argue it's worst!

    Ya know, with the whole anti police/law enforcement/military, woke agenda...

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

    • icon
      TheLizard (profile), 25 Aug 2021 @ 6:11pm

      Re: In all Techdirts "wisdom"

      I got fed up with they cheered the demise of Parler.

      Parler was the most popular download on Android and Apple app stores by far, and some BS article made a completely unsupported claim that insurrectionists organized on Parler, an assertion proven false at this point, but Google and Apple jumped at the chance to ban the app. Then AOC made a public statement excoriating Amazon for allowing Parler to rent space on their servers, so Jeff Bezos obediently kicked them off.

      And TechDirt celebrated this blatant censorship of online discourse, 100% taking the side of the globalist oligarchs and establishment government authoritarians over a little start-up company that had become the most popular social media app download in America.

      It's just gone downhill from there.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2021 @ 10:42pm

        Re: Re: In all Techdirts "wisdom"

        Aw, they're bonding! Maybe you two would like to have a chat over your maskless bleach injections.

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

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 26 Aug 2021 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: In all Techdirts "wisdom"

        I got fed up with they cheered the demise of Parler.

        Where did I "cheer" the demise of Parler? Ignoring that Parler is still around, and therefore, there was no actual "demise," I explained why it made me uncomfortable and that I thought it was good that there was competition. What I did explain was the many reasons why the separate decisions by private companies made sense, including noting that Parler had many alternatives to setup systems to return (as it has since done).

        I did not "cheer" the demise of Parler.

        Why do you lie?

        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.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • 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.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Sponsored Promotion
Public Money, Public Code - Sign The Open Letter at publiccode.eu
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

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.