Clearview AI on track to win U.S. patent for facial recognition technology

Now, a few of these critics concern that codifying Clearview’s work with a patent will speed up the expansion of those applied sciences earlier than legislators or regulators have absolutely addressed the potential risks.

“Facial recognition technology is metastasizing all through the federal authorities, and I’m deeply involved about this development in the direction of elevated surveillance,” privateness hawk Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) mentioned in an e mail. Markey has led laws to put a moratorium on authorities use of biometric software program made by Clearview and others, however momentum on the problem seen over the past Congress has waned and federal guardrails for the technology are far off.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace despatched Clearview a “notice of allowance” on Wednesday, which means the patent will probably be accepted as soon as the corporate pays sure administrative charges. The patent covers Clearview’s “strategies of offering details about an individual based mostly on facial recognition,” together with its “automated net crawler” that scans social networking websites and the web and its algorithms that analyze and match facial pictures obtained on-line.


“There are different facial recognition patents on the market — which are strategies of doing it — however that is the primary one round using large-scale web information,” Clearview CEO and co-founder Hoan Ton-That advised POLITICO in an unique interview. The product makes use of a database of greater than 10 billion pictures, Ton-That mentioned, and he has emphasised that “as an individual of combined race, having non-biased technology is essential to me.”

The corporate’s technology is broadly utilized by high regulation enforcement our bodies within the U.S., together with the FBI and Division of Homeland Safety, and a minimum of 10 federal businesses have mentioned they plan to expand their use of facial recognition within the subsequent two years.

Clearview’s critics argue that the imprimatur of a patent might pace the uptake of a technology that’s dangerously intrusive.

“The half that they are wanting to shield is precisely the half that is probably the most problematic,” mentioned Matt Mahmoudi, an Amnesty Worldwide researcher who’s main the group’s work to ban facial recognition. He argued that Clearview’s use of a picture database constructed with out individuals’s data or consent is a de-facto violation of their proper to privateness. “They’re patenting the very a part of it that is in violation of worldwide human rights regulation.”

Australia and the U.Ok. have accused Clearview of breaking their privateness and information safety legal guidelines.

The software has additionally angered the main social media corporations. Twitter, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn and Venmo final yr despatched cease-and-desist letters demanding that Clearview cease scraping person pictures and information from their platforms. Fb, which lately introduced that it will shut down its personal facial recognition system, has requested Clearview to do the identical.

Clearview argues that there’s a First Modification proper to make use of public materials. “All info in our datasets are all publicly accessible information that individuals voluntarily posted on-line — it is not something on your non-public digital camera roll,” Ton-That mentioned. “If it was all non-public information, that may be a totally completely different story.”

Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Way forward for Privateness Discussion board, mentioned Clearview’s patent raises alarm concerning the prospect of “working actual time recognition tied to information checks on somebody you simply met, dates, drug customers, or homeless individuals.”

The market for commercial uses of this technology is growing, as is the quantity of facial recognition-related patents the USPTO has issued. It granted about 5,000 between 2015 and 2019 to companies throughout tech, telecom, leisure, retail and different sectors, in accordance to the Authorities Accountability Workplace. USPTO didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark on whether or not different facial recognition patents had been issued for web-crawling options like Clearview’s.

Ton-That mentioned Clearview serves authorities customers solely and that “we do not intend to ever make a client model of Clearview AI.”

But Clearview says in its patent utility that the invention may very well be helpful for different functions. The corporate argues that “it might be fascinating for a person to know extra about an individual that they meet, akin to via enterprise, courting, or different relationship.” Widespread methods of studying about new individuals, like asking them questions or testing their enterprise playing cards, could also be unreliable as a result of the data they select to share may very well be false, the applying says.

Mahmoudi of Amnesty Worldwide mentioned that language within the patent leaves the door open to a cascade of latest makes use of sooner or later.


“It reveals a willingness to go down a slippery slope of mainly being accessible in any context,” he mentioned.

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