Secretive Tech Company Wants To Connect Facial Recognition And Covid-19

Secretive Tech Company Wants To Connect Facial Recognition And Covid-19

facial recognition
Secretive tech company Clearview AI wants to connect facial recognition technology with the need to track and trace those who are covid-19 positive. Image: Mike MacKenzie/Flickr/Creative Commons

Clearview AI, a secretive New York City-based tech surveillance company, wants to use facial recognition technology to track and monitor people as a state response to covid-19, according to a report by NBC News.

The company’s founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That revealed that Clearview AI is in talks with U.S. state and federal authorities to use its software in public CCTV camera networks to help in contact tracing.

“There is an expectation that you’re already in a public area so there is no invasion of privacy,” Ton-That told NBC News. “We are using the public data that is already there to solve the problem.”

Once someone has been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, contact tracing is the process of tracking down others who have had recent prolonged exposure to that person when they may have been infectious so that they can be tested and isolated if necessary.

Clearview AI has one of the most powerful forms of facial recognition software ever created, according to the New York Times, and has scraped more than 3 billion photos from social media profiles and websites, making its image database almost seven times the size of the FBI’s database.

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The software, which is already being integrated into augmented reality glasses, is capable of matching names to faces at the tap of a touchscreen.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future, known for leading the large coalition of groups backing its BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, said “absolutely the fuck not” to the plan to use Clearview in contact tracing in the U.S.

“This is a clear example of an unscrupulous company trying to exploit this public health crisis to sell dangerous, invasive, and ineffective surveillance software,” said Sarah Roth-Gaudette, Fight for the Future’s executive director.

“There may be ways that technology can be used to improve traditional forms of contact tracing while protecting people’s basic human rights. This is clearly not one of them,” she said.

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Clearview AI already has contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, according to a BuzzFeed report.

FBI agents, members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and hundreds of police officers at departments nationwide are also among its users.