Facial recognition tech leveraging your social media

As the EU contemplates a temporary ban on facial recognition technology, companies who provide such a service might soon be in legal trouble anyway.  A startup named Clearview AI is one such firm.  Clearview offers an application exclusively for law enforcement that leverages facial data scraped from the Internet.  Clearview relies on social media platforms to gather facial data on users to compile its databases.  Over 600 law enforcement agencies in the US currently use the technology, and it has even led to several arrests.

The problem is that this directly violates the policies of platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  Many of these explicitly state that no content posted to the platform may be used for facial recognition programs.  It doesn’t get much clearer than that.  The sites have begun investigations into Clearview for this matter, but the results might not be so clear cut; especially since Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member, has invested $200,000 into Clearview AI.

According to the agencies that use it, they were unaware that the scraped data was stored on Clearview’s own servers.  At least three billion images reportedly reside there.  Targets ripe for the plucking in a massive data breach—assuming one hasn’t already happened.

Considering how much of their lives people share on social media these days, it’s no wonder a company like Clearview can acquire, legitimately or no, such a massive hoard.  Short of the platforms taking serious legal action, or people being more private with their accounts, this trend is likely to continue.  People do like their privacy, but convenience is also a strong factor.

This mindset is evidenced by research from Visa that shows preference among credit card holders for biometric authentication.  Indeed, the study reveals a majority would consider switching banks if biometrics aren’t part of the deal.  There are numerous advantages to this type of authentication—it’s more convenient, you can’t forget or lose your fingerprints, and it offers stronger security than passwords.  At the same time, it means offering up even more personal data for storage on some database like Clearview’s, whether it’s your prints or your face.

Short of relying on inconsistent or insufficient legal standards to protect privacy in the face of such measures, people can be more cautious of what they share online.  Or at least, make their accounts more private in the Settings.


By: Jonathan Weicher, post on January 22, 2020
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Copyright: NetLib Security