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The 24/7 Police Lineup of Face Recognition Technology

by Jordan Arizmendi

If to err is human, how safe should we feel about an algorithm matching a criminal’s picture up against your charming portrait? Clearview AI is the latest software program that promises a near 100% accuracy in analyzing images of a face and then matching it within a pool of over three billion photos.

The first striking privacy breach is just how this ginormous database of images is collected. Someone, sitting in some dark office in some undisclosed location, first has to scrape every image from every social media platform. The fact that this company then sells other people’s images to law enforcement agencies is one of the reasons why its sale to private companies is banned in the U.S. (although U.S. law enforcement agencies are allowed to use it, of course). Europe and Australia have already fined the company millions of dollars. Clearview AI’s technology allows law enforcement to upload a photo of a face and instantly find the identity to which it belongs.

Privacy violations and wrongful arrests are just some of the reasons that the public should fear Clearview AI. A Meta representative told Insider, “Clearview AI’s actions invade people’s privacy which is why we banned their founder from our services and sent them a legal demand to stop accessing any data, photos, or videos from our services.”

Depending on the quality of the uploaded image, the results of a Clearview AI search can be questionable. If a mile-long algorithm erroneously connects a bank robber’s grainy image with yours or your mother’s, a difficult situation will undoubtedly ensue. In most jurisdictions, however, law enforcement will allegedly only use Clearview AI to solve serious and violent crimes, and we all know the stellar track record police have with being transparent and forthright with the public.

But at least one police department is being transparent and honest about its use of Clearview AI; however, its Orwellian use of the technology that it’s admitting to isn’t going to endear it to civil rights advocates. The Miami Police Department is that one exception. The MPD has admitted to using the software for all types of offenses, everything from overdue library books to murder.

Once someone’s social media image is downloaded into Clearview AI, biometric face prints are engrained into the platform. Suddenly, this individual’s identity is stacked into history’s largest police lineup, persistently and for all time. The general public is participating in a 24/7 police line and doesn’t even realize it.


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