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New Report Says NY Agencies Used Controversial Facial Recognition Tool

Buzzfeed News has been reporting on the controversial startup company Clearview AI for more than a year now.

Senior technology reporter Ryan Mac is among the lead contributors.

“We’ve written nearly two dozen stories over the last year, the one this week kind of being the culmination of that showing just the extent to which this startup has spread its facial recognition technology across the country,” Mac said.

Clearview offers facial recognition software that, for instance, can help law enforcement attempt to match surveillance camera footage to a database the company claims has more than 3 billion photographs, largely taken from social media platforms.

“Your photos that you’ve uploaded, your graduation photos, your vacation photos that you’ve uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, Christmas photos, are now being used to train a facial recognition dragnet that can be used to police your local community,” Mac said.

Clearview has made headlines for allegedly taking these photos without permission, and has been hit with cease and desist letters from most of the major platforms. At the same time, however, Mac said Buzzfeed has found widespread use of the software by taxpayer-funded entities across the country.

“The way we defined it is these are entities that had at least one individual who ran at least one search up until the February 2020 cutoff date,” he said.

Mac said Clearview has been secretive about its business practices, but a source provided Buzzfeed with data showing more than 1,800 entities who have used the technology, although the information about how they were using it was limited. It published a searchable database this week.

In it, there are dozens of New York organizations, including roughly 20 state and local ones that operate in some fashion in Spectrum News’ upstate viewing area.

“I think people have the fundamental right to know,” Mac said. “These are their taxpayer dollars at work, paying for these police departments, paying for these entities and these salaries, and they should know when a tool like this is being used in their communities.”

New York State Police is one of the organizations that has utilized the database the most with more than 5,000 searches by February 2020. A spokesperson said State Police has had a contract with Clearview AI since May 2019. Read Full Article at Spectrum News

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