Following Twitter, Google and YouTube sent stop-access letters to Clearview AI, which has taken billions of photos from the Internet and used it to help more than 600 police departments identify people in seconds. The move follows a similar move by Sending a letter to Clearview AI in January that stopped using its data. The news of Google and YouTube’s stop-and-go letter was originally reported by CBS News.
Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition start-up whose chief executive is defending the company’s vast database of searchable faces, said in a CBS interview Wednesday morning that it was his First Amendment effort to collect public photos. He also compared his approach to Google’s approach in its search engine.
Proponents argue that facial recognition technology, which helps improve security and make smart devices easier, has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and related organizations. Microsoft, IBM and Amazon, which sell identification systems to U.S. law enforcement agencies, say facial recognition should be regulated by the government, and some cities, including San Francisco, have banned the device, but there are no laws to address the issue.
Here’s The full statement from YouTube:
YouTube’s terms of service expressly prohibit the collection of data that can be used to identify an individual. Clearview publicly admitted that this was the right thing to do, so we sent them a termination notice. It is inaccurate compared to Google Search. Most sites want to be included in Google Search, but site administrators can control what information on their site is included in our search results, including the option to opt out altogether. Clearview secretly collected personal image data without their consent and in violation of the rules, and they are explicitly prohibited from doing so. “
Facebook also said it was reviewing Clearview AI’s practices and would take action if it learned that the company had violated the terms of service.
A Facebook spokesman told CBS News on Tuesday: “We are seriously concerned about Clearview’s approach, which is why we are requesting information while conducting ongoing reviews.” How they respond will determine the next steps we take. “
Clearview AI came under scrutiny in January after the New York Times reported how the company’s app identified people by comparing them with a database of more than 3 billion images. Clearview said the database had purged data from social media and other sites. The app is used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the United States to identify people suspected of criminal activity.
Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton told CBS News
BuzzFeed News reported that Clearview AI had told police the facial recognition was “crazy” when it was marketed to law enforcement agencies, but said there were privacy restrictions.
Critics say the app poses a threat to individual civil liberties, but Clearview CEO and founder Hoan Ton disagrees. In an interview with Errol Barnett, who aired Wednesday on CBS, Ton compared his company’s extensive collection of photos of people to Google’s search engine.
“Google can get information from all the different websites,” says Ton. So if it’s public, it could be inside the Google search engine, and it’s probably inside us. “
Google disagrees with the comparison, calling it misleading and pointing out some differences between its search engine and Clearview AI. The tech giant argues that Clearview is not a public search engine that collects data without people’s consent, and that websites can always ask to block the information on Google.
The founder of Clearview AI plans to challenge google and Twitter for issuing stops on the grounds that he has the right to collect public photos.
“Our legal counsel has contacted Twitter and is working on this,” Ton said. However, there is also a First Amendment to public information. Therefore, we build the system by simply getting public information and indexing it in this way. “
As Tiffany C. Li, a technology lawyer, points out on Twitter, Clearview AI won’t be the first technology company to use this defense to justify its data-grabbing practices. In 2017, hiQ, a data analytics firm, sued LinkedIn, saying it had the right to continue crawling public data from a social network owned by Microsoft, and that the First Amendment protected that access.
The size of the Clearview database dwarfs other databases used by law enforcement. The FBI’s own database is one of the largest, collecting passport and driver’s license photos containing more than 641 million images of U.S. citizens. Clearview retains all collected images even if the original upload is deleted.
Law enforcement agencies say they have used the app to solve a variety of crimes, from shoplifting to murder. However, privacy advocates warn that the app may return the wrong match to the police, and that others may use it. They also warn that, in general, facial recognition technology can be used for large-scale surveillance.
Clearview AI filed a lawsuit in Illinois after the Times reported that the software was a “insidious violation of personal freedom” and accused the company of violating the privacy rights of its residents. Before the lawsuit, Democratic Senator Edward Markey said Clearview’s app could pose a “chilling” privacy risk.