Facial Recognition Startup Draws Tech Giants' Ire

Clearview AI created a searchable image database by scouring social media.


A New York City-based startup is facing the wrath of some the world’s biggest tech companies due to the way it’s populating a database for its facial recognition product.

According to its website, Clearview AI’s mission is to enable law enforcement agencies to identify perpetrators and victims of crimes. It apparently does this by using a “research tool” that’s, essentially, a searchable database of photographic images. And they’ve been obtaining these images, reportedly, by scraping them from the web, including from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The New York Times reported in late January that Twitter had contacted Clearview AI and demanded they stop “collecting faces.” Now, according to Business Insider, Google and YouTube have joined Twitter in blasting Clearview AI for violating their policies.

These companies basically all employ language that says that individuals are forbidden from collecting information that’s then used to identify a person or, as Twitter explicitly says, “for surveillance purposes.”

But the startup, whose legal team is certainly being kept busy, says that it is simply accessing publicly available information, which is a right it is afforded by the First Amendment.

BBC News says the startup has amassed more than 3 billion images from a variety of websites, and so far, Clearview AI is being used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Homeland Security.

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