The size of the proposed image database would be equivalent to Clearview AI holding 14 photos for every person in the world. According to the facial recognition company, this database would aid the development of an advanced surveillance system for criminal investigations worldwide.
As The Washington Post reports, Clearview AI is attempting to lure in investors with a new proposal for its database extension – to collect 100 billion facial images within a year. A New York-based non-profit privacy group, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), has condemned the plan to make "almost everyone in the world" identifiable.
Expansion beyond law enforcement
Clearview AI is pitching a world without any public anonymity or privacy for the firm's own profit, all while stealing our photos from the Internet. We cannot let Clearview AI cash in on this invasive, abusive practice, and we must stop all use of its software by law and immigration enforcement.
In the fundraising proposal, Clearview AI boasts about that its "index of faces" has expanded immensely over the last two years (from 3 billion to over 10 billion images). The company reports its latest data collection system can ingest a whopping 1.5 billion images per month. Clearview AI promotes this system as a rich source of data to be used by thousands of national law enforcement agencies. It adds that, with another $50 million from investors, it could enlarge its database to 100 billion images, design new products, expand its sales, and more.
S.T.O.P. insists that Clearview AI's plans have nothing to do with national or international security. According to them, the primary objectives of Clearview AI are monitoring of "gig economy workers and deployment in financial services, commercial real estate, and other industries". S.T.O.P. points out that Clearview AI uses obnoxious mechanisms to scrape billions of images from the internet, without the permission of the subjects – reiterating that its expansion plans and facial recognition software are far beyond just the remit of law enforcement.
Battles of the unjust
Clearview AI is already battling federal lawsuits in the US, and is up against legal actions in the courts of California, Illinois, New York, Vermont, and Virginia. The company is also under government investigation in Canada since Canadian commissioners decided that Clearview AI was engaged in unlawful mass surveillance.
The indiscriminate scraping of people's facial images, only a fraction of whom would ever be connected with law enforcement investigations, may adversely impact the personal freedoms of all Australians who perceive themselves to be under surveillance.
Privacy groups in the U.K. France, Greece, and Italy continue to report data protection violations. In Sweden, the authorities fined a local police agency for using Clearview AI data, and the Australian and French governments have ordered Clearview to delete all the data of their citizens. The Australian government has said that the company secretly monetized these stolen images for a purpose "outside reasonable expectations".
Clearview's founder, Hoan Ton-That, rejected the accusations and said that his company shared the latest document with only a "small group of individuals who expressed interest in the company". He also said that the images in question have "been collected in a lawful manner" from "millions of different websites" on the public Internet. It seems like Mr. Ton-That is missing the clear line between data on the internet being public, and using that public data for private collections to generate profit.
Putting a S.T.O.P. to mass surveillance
Despite the lawsuits and legal complaints by digital rights activists, Clearview AI continues with its practices and even plans investments in an array of other invasive surveillance systems, such as gun and drug detection, license plate tracking, contactless fingerprint scanning, and even gait recognition software.
The global ambitions of Clearview AI are dystopian, disturbing, and must be stopped.
Clearview AI's latest investment pitch was a step too far for S.T.O.P., which strongly advocates privacy and is fighting excessive local and state-level surveillance. Their stance in this matter is clear – Clearview AI's practices jeopardize the fundamental privacy rights of individuals whose images are being illegally collected and used, and these practices need to end.