An iPhone app from the controversial startup for facial recognition Clearview AI was blocked by Apple, effectively banning the use of the app.
Apple confirmed to theinformationsuperhighway that the startup violated its corporate development program.
The app allows users who the company claims are just law enforcement officers to use their phone camera or upload a photo to search the 3 billion photo database. However, BuzzFeed News announced that the company, which claims to serve law enforcement users only, also includes many private sector users, including Macy's, Walmart and Wells Fargo.
Clearview AI has been in the middle of a media and legal storm since its public debut in the New York Times last month. The company scratches public photos from social media sites and is angered by major technology giants who claim Clearview AI has abused its services. But it has also caught the attention of hackers. On Wednesday, Clearview AI confirmed a data breach in which the customer list was stolen.
theinformationsuperhighway found Clearview AI's iPhone app in a public Amazon S3 storage area on Thursday, despite warnings on the site that the app "may not be released to the public."
This page prompts users to "open this page on their iPhone" to install and approve the company's company certificate so that the app can run.
However, according to Apple's guidelines, this is prohibited if the users of the app are outside the Clearview AI organization.
Company certificates are issued by Apple so that companies can create and approve iPhone and iPad apps that are only for in-house use. It is common for these certificates to be used for internal testing of apps before they are sent to the app store. Apple maintains strict rules for the use of company certificates and states that they cannot be used by consumers. However, there have been cases of abuse.
Last year, theinformationsuperhighway exclusively reported that both Facebook and Google used their enterprise app certificates for consumers to bypass Apple's app store. Apple revoked the technology giant's corporate certificates and deactivated the offending app, but also any other app that relied on the certificate, including their catering and lunch menu apps.
The app was called "beta" – usually a pre-release or trial version of the app. Aside from this claim, there is no evidence that this app has not been used by Clearview AI customers.
Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI, told theinformationsuperhighway: "We are in contact with Apple and are working to comply with their terms and conditions."
A quick analysis of the app using network traffic and disassembly tools shows that it works largely the same as the Clearview AI Android app that Gizmodo discovered on Thursday.
As with the Android app, a user needs a Clearview AI approved username and password to use the app.