Clearview AI Set To Get A Patent…. Which Is All Sorts Of Wrong

I haven’t written about notorious facial recognition company Clearview AI in some time. But they’re back in the news as it looks like that they are going to get a patent for some of their tech:

Clearview AI, the notorious facial recognition company which has partneredwith over 2,400 law enforcement agencies across the U.S, is about to receive a patent for what it describes as a first of its kind, “search engine for faces.”

Politico, which was the first to discover the patent originally filed in August 2020, determined the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had sent Clearview a notice of allowance last week. That means Clearview essentially has the patent in the bag so long as it pays its administrative fees. And with well over $38 million raised so far in funding according to Crunchbase, paying the bill shouldn’t be a problem.

In an interview with Politico, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That claimed his company’s tool would represent the first of its kind to use “large-scale internet data.” That translates to, the first facial recognition service to scrape billions of photos from social media and other publicly available databases, almost always without users’ consent. That sweeping database of faces includes somewhere around 10 billion images, according to Ton-That.

This is all sorts of wrong that has privacy advocates freaking out. And rightly so.

Mark Stamford, Cyber Security Expert and Founder of OccamSec had this to say about the patent:

Well first, it’s not really AI. They collect a bunch of pics, use some machine learning, and then match faces to names.

Then he goes on to say the following:

  • From a privacy standpoint its mostly awful – their long term plan (judging by the patent application) is to give everyone the ability to scan faces and work out who people are. 
  • So we can imagine a situation where you meet someone, and can quickly get their background info and determine if you should talk to them. 
  • Seems harmless enough, but how about I work out who in the environment is worth robbing? Or kidnapping? Or I can use these to determine who someone is, find out how much they might be worth, and use the info to launch a social engineering attack against them leading to me emptying their bank account (it will save me hours of time if I can just see a face and get all its info).

He concludes, “Beyond that, its full on black mirror land.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Clearview AI is a clear and present danger. No company should be allowed to do what it is doing, and given that countries worldwide along with numerous companies have tried to curtail if not stop what it is doing, one can hope that it will drive them out of existence.

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