Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI says that it has scraped more than 30 billion photos from social media platforms, and it is being used by more than 2,400 law enforcement agencies around the United States.
The staggering number comes directly from Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That. The 30 billion image database is an increase of about 10 billion over last year when the company disclosed that it had collected about 20 billion “publicly available” images from social media. Clearview AI was fined $9.5 million for illegally collecting people’s photos last May by the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office, France ordered it to delete its database of French citizens, and it was permanently banned from making its database available to most businesses and private entities in the United States.
While the U.S. ban does not prevent law enforcement from using Clearview AI, around 17 cities have banned it including Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. But those appear to be exceptions to the rule.
Despite multiple setbacks, Clearview AI appears undeterred. It has not only ballooned its database significantly over the last year, it clearly has not had a problem finding buyers for its software.
Clearview remains highly controversial, and while it is no longer able to provide its services to private businesses, the company appears to be focusing its efforts on the only market segment that remains viable: law enforcement. There, police seem more than happy to use the platform.
The Miami Police Department confirmed it uses Clearview AI regularly — a rare admission by law enforcement.
“We don’t make an arrest because an algorithm tells us to,” Assistant Chief of Police Armando Aguilar tells the BBC. “We either put that name in a photographic line-up or we go about solving the case through traditional means.”
Miami Police are clearly not the only customers, as the BBC reports Clearview AI has run nearly a million searches for U.S. police departments showcasing its widespread use across the country.
According to Gizmodo, police feel “emboldened” to use Clearview facial recognition and will tap the resource for a broad range of crimes, from a shoplifting case to a murder.
“There’s simply no justification for using public tax dollars to buy stolen private photos,” Fox Cahn, who supports broad city and state bans on facial recognition technology, tells Gizmodo. “And all too often, elected officials don’t even know that this is happening.”
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.