Clearview AI Wins Web-Scraping Facial Recognition Patent Triggering Big Brother Privacy Concerns

clearview ai facial recognition wins patent
Late last year, the Los Angeles Police Department banned the use of facial recognition software like Clearview AI, which is used by thousands of law enforcement agencies. However, despite the mounting concerns and push-back regarding facial recognition technology, the United States-based company has effectively been awarded a patent for its technology, which amounts to a search engine of sorts for faces.

Clearview’s technology works by scraping images from public social media pages to assist law enforcement in matching images or videos held by an agency. More specifically, the patent outlines that the data used to match faces to images or video may come from “an online profile of the subject on a social networking website, a professional networking website, or an employer website.” However, it does not appear that is all that Clearview is limited to in terms of use cases.

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In an interview with Politico, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That explained that the company “[doesn’t] intend to ever make a consumer version of Clearview AI.” However, the patent, which has nearly been approved, explains a use case wherein “it may be desirable for an individual to know more about a person that they meet, such as through business, dating, or other relationship.” Further, the summary of the invention explains that “this disclosure addresses the need mentioned above in a number of aspects,” which is quite concerning despite Ton-That’s reassurances of government-only clients.

Another interesting item of note is that it seems Clearview is trying to buck the system after Facebook shut down its facial recognition system earlier this year. Funnily enough, though, Clearview uses images uploaded to Facebook for its system, citing first amendment rights to use public materials. However, Facebook and other companies such as Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others have either expressed their ire with Clearview or even sent cease and desist letters.

In any event, the award of this patent and acceptance of the needs outlined within indicate that Clearview and the government are willing to open the door to numerous facial recognition implementations. Whether this violates your privacy or not is for you to decide, so let us know what you think in the comments below.