Hoan Ton-That, founder of surveillance company Clearview AI, shares his insights on the unchecked growth of his facial database in an interview.
US surveillance company Clearview AI, whose facial recognition software is used by law enforcement and government agencies worldwide, has been under fire for years for harvesting people's facial images from the internet without their consent and making them available for surveillance purposes. AI-driven image analysis plays a critical role in Clearview AI's software.
In the US alone, Clearview AI, which was founded in 2017, has processed about one million search queries, the company's CEO Hoan Ton-That said in an interview with the BBC. He added that the company now has more than 30 billion photos in its database. These were downloaded from social networks such as Facebook.
A year and a half ago, the collection contained ten billion images. Clearview has set a goal of 100 billion images to track "almost everyone."
Clearview's collection of faces grows unabated
The extent to which US police or other agencies routinely use the software is unknown. Some cities have banned the use of Clearview's software. The website banfacialrecognition.com details the use of facial recognition in the US.
The Miami Police Department, according to the BBC, said the facial scanner would be used for any type of crime. It would also treat the AI-based identification as a lead, but would not make arrests based on an algorithm. If false arrests do occur, it will be the responsibility of the authorities, Ton-That said.
The UK was one of many countries that recently fined Clearview AI millions of dollars for alleged privacy violations. The company was also ordered to delete all images of British citizens.
Many other international privacy authorities are taking action against Clearview. However, a list leaked in the fall of 2021 also showed that some European agencies were using the software themselves - despite being banned from doing so.
Most US companies are prohibited from using the service due to a policy change, but there is an exception for law enforcement.