The controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI is negotiating with several unnamed federal agencies and three US states to provide contact investigators during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company’s founder and CEO, Hoan Ton-That, confirmed that negotiations were underway, but declined to specify which agencies or states are considering the company’s services.
Ton-That said the company has seen a growing demand for technical solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and sees it as a good opportunity to expand its business.
Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI is negotiating with three states and several federal agencies to develop contact tracking tools to track the spread of COVID-19
“What we understand now is that we are at a stage where if we want to open the economy in a way that is safe for everyone, we need to be able to test quickly and also find the infected people and find out with whom they’ve been in contact, ”said Ton-That NBC News.
Clearview has provided access to its facial recognition software to more than 2,220 different government and law enforcement agencies across the country, including immigration and customs enforcement, the New York Police Department, the US Secret Service, the drug enforcement agency and more.
It extracts photos and personal information from a wide variety of online sources, including social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, which it uses to create individual profiles of people.
Clearview’s app uses these profiles to identify individuals on photos their customers upload.
According to Ton-That, Clearview’s facial recognition software could give it an advantage over other contact tracking methods, including smartphone apps that use Bluetooth signals from interactions.
According to CEO and founder Hoan Ton-That, there was a growing demand for technical solutions to help local governments ease lockdown restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic
“Many retail spaces and gyms already have cameras,” said Ton-That. “And there is an expectation that you are in a public space, so there is not necessarily an expectation of privacy.”
“The cameras are already there in case crime takes place. They can already be reused to help anyone who has had the virus. ‘
Many were suspicious of the company’s technology, including Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, who sent a letter to Clearview requesting to disclose which states and agencies it is in talks with, and to share specific details about the proposed contact tracking programs. .
“Clearview has not shown that it can be trusted to protect the privacy of Americans,” Markey told NBC News in a statement.
“I’m afraid that if this company gets involved in our country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, its invasive technology will be normalized, which could end our ability to move anonymously and freely in public . “
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has expressed concern about Clearview’s potential to violate privacy rights and sent a letter asking the company to name the states and agencies it negotiates with and to outline its plans for contact detection
Clearview is funded in part by Peter Thiel, the conservative venture capitalist who helped found the data analysis company Palantir, which has partnered with the FBI, CIA, Marine Corps and the Department of Homeland Security.
Palantir is also reportedly pitching his services to the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a COVID-19 database.
Previous reporting from The Huffington Post has revealed connections between Clearview and several inflammatory conservative figures, including Charles C. Johnson, Jason Miller, Mike Cernovich and Pax Dickinson.
In 2016, Ton-That posed for a photo alongside Johnson who made the ‘OK’ sign, a common hand signal used by white supremacists and listed as a hate symbol by the 2019 Anti-Defamation League.
A former employee, Marko Jukic, who was reportedly responsible for pitching the company’s services to government agencies, pseudonymously published a number of blog posts featuring racist language.
‘[I]If you spend a few hours to let your disgruntled friends and family know it’s OK to take the [N-word and] pointing out that democracy is a miserable failure, you will have achieved much more concrete good in the world than you would have done by spending a few hours on almost everything else, “he reportedly wrote.
Clearview says he was unaware of Jukic’s reports and fired him after hearing about his publication history.
Despite these associations, Ton-That has rejected the idea that he is a white supremacist or that the company is sympathetic to the goals of white supremacy.
“I am a proud American of Vietnamese and Australian descent,” he said Business insider.
“I am an immigrant to this country that I support and love, largely because of the diversity and acceptance of people, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”
“I’m not a white supremacist or anti-Semite, nor am I sympathetic to any of those views. They are revolting and I reject them completely and without reservation. ‘
HOW DOES FACE RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY WORK?
Facial recognition software works by matching real-time images with an earlier photo of a person.
Each face has about 80 unique nodes across the eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth that distinguish one person from another.
A digital video camera measures the distance between different points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, the depth of the eye sockets, the distance between the eyes and the shape of the jaw line.
Another smart surveillance system (shown) can scan 2 billion faces in seconds, has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to select targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country
This yields a unique numeric code that can then be linked to a matching code obtained from a previous photo.
A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to select targets.
Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon adopt fingerprint technology as the most effective way of identifying people.