Artificial Intelligence: Controversial AI Company Clearview To Nab Patent For “A Search Engine For Faces”

Clearview has a notorious software that scrapes public images from social media to help law enforcement match mugshots.

Clearview AI, the company that has been under fire from governments, tech giants and privacy advocacy organizations for scraping facial images from social media, is on the cusp of bagging a patent for a “search engine for faces” that can roam the internet to find matches. (Politico)

The company does not seek people’s consent for using their facial images in its data base, though its technology is deployed by law enforcement agencies in the US, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

Last month, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provisionally imposed a fine on the company of more than £17 million, and issued a provisional notice to stop further processing of the personal data of people in the UK and to delete it following alleged serious breaches of the UK’s data protection laws.

There is now concern that awarding a patent to Clearview for this technology will only add further momentum to its controversial and intrusive practices. According to Politico, the company’s proposed patent covers “methods of providing information about a person based on facial recognition”; its “automated web crawler” that scans social networking sites and the internet; and algorithms that analyze and match facial images obtained online.

Last Wednesday, the US Patent and Trademark Office sent Clearview a “notice of allowance” that essentially grants the patent subject to payment of fees.

Matt Mahmoudi, an Amnesty International researcher who is leading the group’s work to ban facial recognition, is of the view that the patent will protect exactly that part of the technology that is most problematic and in violation of international human rights law.

Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, fears that the patent could soon allow for “running real time recognition tied to data checks on someone you just met, dates, drug users, or homeless people.”

Though Clearview CEO and co-founder Hoan Ton-That told POLITICO in an exclusive interview that the company did not intend to make a consumer version of its technology, the language in the patent application allows the company to use it for a myriad of other purposes.

Related Story: Clearview AI Hits Advocacy Groups With Subpoenas

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