Clearview AI's Ties to White Nationalist Groups, Privacy Concerns

Facial Recognition Composite

The CEO of Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition software company, denounces ties to white nationalist groups, after an extensive report by HuffPost on Tuesday revealed the founder reportedly has connections with several far-right provocateurs.  


The report states the Australian CEO, Hoan Ton-That, has - or once had - relations with far-right conspirator Chuck Johnson, Pizzagate peddler Mike Cernovich, among other prominent names associated with these abhorrent movements.


How does Clearview operate?: Without permission, the company scraped billions of images from major web services, including Facebook, YouTube, and Google, and is now selling its application to law enforcement agencies across the United States. Several reports also have Clearview cooperating with billionaire investors, retailers, and the like. In order to identify someone, you simply upload or capture a new photo, with their software attempting to make a match. The small startup’s app is so robust that anyone could walk up to you on the street and easily find your name and address, according to a New York Times report.


What are the worries?: Some have argued that Clearview’s software blurs any potential for future anonymity in public. Specifically, this invasive software places society’s most vulnerable in even more risk. “Any tech that you develop that will be consumed by humans, you have to think of the flaws,” said Crystal Justice, chief marketing and development officer for the National Domestic Violence Hotline


According to CNet, Google, YouTube, and Twitter delivered a cease-and-desist order to Clearview AI back in February, with other companies’ reviewing their technologies.  


Is this software legal?: Chris Kennedy, the chief information and security officer for cybersecurity firm AttackIQ, believes the United States is moving toward a pro-Clearview AI-direction, with few capacities to revert the harm done. But, sooner is better than later to act .“We can’t slow the pace of technology without significant cultural shifts … and enforceable laws,” he told Digital Trends. “It can’t be this toe in the water stuff like CCPA or GDPR [the name for European digital privacy laws]. It has to be, ‘this is how it is, these are the expectations in the management of your data and information, you must adhere to them or risk the consequences.’ It’s like when a hurricane comes. You leave, or you pay.”


Obviously jockeying for an impending legal battle, Clearview’s CEO argued, “there’s a First Amendment right to public information. So the way we have built our system is to only take publicly available information and index it that way.” 


There are few federal governing statutes protecting online privacy. Instead, states have a patchwork of various protections, with only the California Consumer Privacy Act (CPPA) nearing new European GDPR standards. 


What do Digital Democrats support?: A unified document that universally guarantees Americans consumer protections from these invasive softwares with non-partisan oversight from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).