The mysterious startup Clearview AI sells an apparently very powerful face recognition tool that compares everyone to a huge database of photos – it claims to be over 3 billion – that come from virtually every major US platform on the Internet. A leaked list now shows that more than 2,200 government agencies and private companies have tried the service.
Clearview, first published with the kind permission of a January report from the New York Times, says it has about 600 customers, all of whom are law enforcement officers. However, the company has repeatedly refused to publish a customer list, and previous reports have found that at least some of its marketing claims are significantly exaggerated.
Earlier this week, Clearview announced that the customer list and some information about searches performed by these customers had been lost in the event of a data breach. BuzzFeed reporters had access to a copy and found much more than Clearview has admitted.
A total of 2,228 companies conducted a total of 500,000 searches using the app found by BuzzFeed, with each being tracked and logged by Clearview. The majority did their search during 30-day free trials, and then didn't sign up for the service.
Clearview does not release its app to the public – although Gizmodo found a copy on a publicly accessible server – and the company has repeatedly claimed that the app is not intended for consumers and is only intended for "trained professionals" under "law enforcement agencies" Agencies and selected security experts. "Apparently," security experts "include retailers like Best Buy, Kohl & # 39; s, Walmart, and Macy & # 39; s, with Macy & # 39; s on the list of actually paying customers. Other customers with paid contracts are the US Immigration, Customs, and the United States Attorney General for the southern district of New York.
According to BuzzFeed, FBI, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) people and "hundreds" of local police have access to the app. Clearview's exposure is also not limited to the U.S. market: users connected to Interpol and a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates used the app, and accounts were found in several other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Australia. Users connected to two dozen educational institutions, including two high schools, have also created and used accounts.
Here in the United States, ICE and the Department of Justice were particularly concerned with Clearview. BuzzFeed noted:
Clearview has also been used in the Department of Justice, where the list of government organizations testing the company's facial recognition software includes multiple U.S. intelligence agencies (approximately 5,600 searches). the drug enforcement administration (approx. 2,000 searches); the office for alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives (more than 2,100 searches); and the FBI (5,700 searches in at least 20 different branches). The spokesmen for all of these agencies either refused to comment or did not respond to a request for comment.
An ICE spokesman told BuzzFeed that the use of facial recognition technology, including Clearview, is mainly used in cases of child exploitation and cybercrime. Nevertheless, the agency has expanded the use of facial recognition on a broad front in recent years and at the same time acted against immigrants and immigration.
When asked by BuzzFeed, Clearview's lawyer, Tor Ekeland, replied: "This illegally obtained information is subject to numerous inaccuracies. As a federal investigation is currently ongoing, we have no further comment."