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Facial recognition app raises privacy concerns

A new facial recognition app is getting great reviews for its accuracy, and could be a useful tool for law enforcement. But it’s also raising concerns abo...
0216 Facial Rec App

A new facial recognition app is getting great reviews for its accuracy, and could be a useful tool for law enforcement. But it’s also raising concerns about personal privacy.

Hoan Ton-That is the founder of Clearview AI, a new facial recognition app which claims it can identify anyone with just a single image. It’s designed just for law enforcement.

The Chicago Police Department has signed up for a two year trial. In fact, Ton-That claims some six hundred law enforcement agencies nationwide are already using it in thousands of cases, identifying shoplifters, murderers and pedophiles.

“There have been cases where we’ve helped to identify children who have been the victim of child sex trafficking,” Hoan Ton-That, Founder of Clearview AI said.

Ton-That claims his app is 99.6% accurate. We put it to the test. First, we uploaded an image of me and instantly, one hundred and three of my photos appeared with links from all over the internet. Then, I covered half of my face, and it still worked.

Clearview AI claims it has a database of more than three billion internet photos taken from various websites like Google, and the world’s largest social media companies like Facebook. Companies which have sent cease and desist letters to shut down the app, claiming scraping people’s information violated their terms of service, a charge ton-that says is hypocritical.

“We’re not taking any personal data. This is things that are out there on the internet. Google has a lot of your personal and private info as well. They track where you go around the Web,” Ton-That said.

In a letter, Senator Ed Markey expressed his fears this technology could be made available to the public writing, “Clearview’s product appears to pose particularly chilling privacy risks.”

LEONG says: “There could be concerns about stalkers, or of people who are victims of domestic violence, or people who just want a certain amount of privacy,” Brenda Leong of the Future of Privacy Forum Senior Council said.

Ton-That says he has no plans to make this app available to the public, and he welcomes regulation.

“I think that for law enforcement, it’s a great use case, but for everybody on the street to use it, what’s the point?” Ton-That said.

Well, the point is despite Ton-That’s intentions, critics point out the app is already available to some banks, and investors of Clearview AI are reportedly interested in making it available to everyone.