The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) has recently gone on record regarding Clearwater AI, a facial recognition software and surveillance company, and for the record: they didn’t have anything nice to say. The ACLU’s actions come in response to an October 2019 report made by Clearview AI about their facial recognition software to the North Miami Police Department. According to the report, Clearview has compiled a database of nearly 3 billion photos garnished from websites and social media with the intent of facially recognizing citizens using mass surveillance systems. The report goes on to detail that the software company uses the same methodologies as the ACLU.
“The Independent Review Panel determined that Clearview rated 100% accurate, producing instant and accurate matches for every photo image in the test,” reads the report, and that “accuracy is consistent across all racial and demographic groups.” The ACLU takes up an issue with this, stating that this report is highly misleading and that Clearview’s attempt to mimic the methodology of the ACLU’s 2018 facial recognition study was a poor attempt at “manufacturing endorsements.”
“The report is absurd on many levels and further demonstrates that Clearview simply does not understand the harms of its technology in law enforcement hands,” says ACLU Northern California attorney Jacob Snow. Clearview’s report that their software abides by ACLU methodological standards is among the most recent of questionable claims made by Clearview. Amongst these claims is the assertion of Clearview to potential clients that the company’s facial recognition software was essential in several New York City arrests, a claim that the NYPD has officially denied.
Clearview has also claimed that the company is actively at work with more than six hundred law enforcement agencies. Ironically, Clearview has been sued by multiple organizations and denounced publically, including action by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who issued a moratorium on state use of the technology after his image was used without his consent in a Clearview promotion video that was used for marketing purposes.
Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview, stands defiant amidst all of this, defending the October 2019 report and insisting that his company is within first amendment rights to collect images of persons off of the web.
“If Clearview is so confident about its technology, it should subject its product to rigorous independent testing in real-life settings,” said Snow. “And it should give the public the right to decide whether the government is permitted to use its product at all.”
Regardless of accuracy, Jacob Snow and the ACLU are observing technology as a total threat to privacy.