Take a photo of a stranger on the street and upload it to software to obtain his identity within a second. This is the facial recognition service offered by Clearview AI, a little-known start-up that has devised a facial recognition app.
The technology behind ClearView is not new or particularly groundbreaking. ClearView has put existing technologies together in such a way that they become an extremely effective investigative tool. The system consists of a backbone with a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have obtained from millions of websites, including the social networks Facebook and Twitter, YouTube, or even the mobile payment service Venmo, according to the report by The New York Times.
Used since last year by more than 600 customers, the software, which is not accessible to the general public, is supposed to find a match of faces in 75% of cases. It also provides links to the sites from which the images originate, which makes it possible to retrieve other information on the person sought. The name, address, or profession of any person are thus just a few clicks away – regardless of whether it is a passerby, a wanted criminal, or a demo participant.
So far, ClearView has only licensed its services to government agencies – police, FBI, and private security companies – especially in the United States and Canada.
ClearView is said to have even developed suitable augmented reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The search for a face would be as easy as quickly googling a name!
Clearview AI is already claiming the identification of hundreds of criminals, including pedophiles, terrorists, and sex traffickers. But experts worry about the possible abuses of the use of its app and the risks of misidentification of this controversial service.
It was founded by Hoan Ton-That, a 31-year-old Australian, and Richard Schwartz, a former collaborator of the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. In 2017, the firm also received funding of $200,000 from the American billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal.