An American company has a database of 3 billion photos that have been made available to more than 600 police and private companies since last year, writes the New York Times.
Clearview AI has collected these photos from millions of public websites, such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. By sending a photo to Clearview, you can get more photos of the same person, with publication links.
The company says it has 600 customers, without providing details of their identities. On his website, only the glowing words of a detective from the Canadian Police Morale Squad are mentioned. With 3 billion photos, Clearview AI would far exceed similar databases used for facial recognition.
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In the United States, authorities use this technique to verify the identity of people arriving in the country, but they use photos specially made for this purpose. Clearview was a relatively unknown company until the New York Times article.
American billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, invested $ 200,000 in the company in 2017 but is not one of its managers. Its founders are Hoan Ton-That, a 31-year-old Australian, and Richard Schwartz, who worked for Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York.
For her article, Times reporter Kashmir Hill had sent her photo to the police and asked them to enter the database. Clearview then called these officers to verify if they were in contact with reporters.
According to Clearview, the software had simply raised an alarm due to unusual searches. Hoan Ton-That admitted to the Times that his company had developed a prototype of face recognition augmented reality glasses, but that there were no plans to market them.