Artificial Intelligence: Clearview AI Hits Advocacy Groups With Subpoenas

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Clearview AI has allegedly created a database of billions of photographs from websites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Venmo.

Clearview AI, the facial recognition company that has earned the ire of privacy, human rights, and civil liberties advocacy groups, has subpoenaed internal documents from some of the organizations that first exposed its activities. (Politico)

POLITICO has obtained copies of the subpoenas which demand details of any correspondence the groups had with journalists about Clearview AI and its management. The company has also asked for any information discovered about the company and its founders during the last four years through public records requests.

“Chilling” arm-twisting by Clearview?

The subpoenas have been served in August on advocacy groups including civil society coalition Open The Government, its policy analyst Freddy Martinez, and Lucy Parsons Labs, the police accountability nonprofit that Martinez previously founded. Also targeted are Open the Government and MuckRock, which shared their data with the New York Times.

Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of Open the Government, claimed Clearview’s actions were a manner of strong-arming critics because it is expensive and time-consuming to legally contest a subpoena.

“They presumably have massive amounts of resources at their disposal; we do not,” Rosenberg said in an interview, adding that “nonprofits could potentially be bullied by Clearview.”

“There is absolutely no justification for a vendor to be able to target civil society groups; we know just how chilling that can be,” said Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. The Project is a nonprofit that protests governmental mass surveillance.

Clearview’s use case

Authorities such as the police and investigating agencies use Clearview to match images in government databases and surveillance footage with its massive hoard of personal photos scraped from the internet.

Clearview Founder Hoan Ton-That describes Clearview as a “search engine for faces,” and takes care to point out that the firm uses only publicly available photos.

Meanwhile, the firm’s future appears to be bright, given that about half of agencies plan to expand their use of facial recognition in the next two years, according to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office in August.

“Clearview AI is vigorously defending itself against claims in multi-district litigation and therefore has served subpoenas to appropriate parties relating to its defense,” said Clearview’s attorney Andrew J. Lichtman in a statement.

Related Story: Hackers Raid Notorious Facial Recognition Startup Clearview AI

Image Credit: Subpoena by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free

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