Clearview AI’s “face search engine” to receive patent

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Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

Clearview AI, the famous facial recognition company that has in partnership with more than 2,400 law enforcement agencies across the United States, is set to receive a patent for what he describes as the first of its kind, the “face search engine”.

Politico, who was the first to to discover the patent originally filed in August 2020, determined that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sent Clearview a notice of clearance last week. This means Clearview essentially has the patent in the bag as long as it pays its administrative costs. And with over 38 million dollars raised so far in funding according to Crunchbase, paying the bill shouldn’t be a problem.

In an interview with Politico, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That claimed his company’s tool would be the first of its kind to use “large-scale Internet data.” This results in the first facial recognition service to extract billions of photos from social media and other publicly accessible databases, almost always without users’ consent. This vast database of faces includes around 10 billion images, according to Your-That.

Privacy advocates and researchers oppose the patent and fear it will normalize Clearview’s data-scraping practices before lawmakers have a chance to pass meaningful data privacy regulations restricting technology.

“The part they seek to protect is exactly the part that poses the most problems,” Amnesty International researcher Matt Mahmoudi told Politico. “They are patenting the very part of it that violates international human rights law.”

Although a handle of cities and some states have passed legislation restricting the use of facial recognition, the United States still lacks a comprehensive federal privacy standard. However, patents around facial recognition are generally on the rise. Between 2015 and 2019, the USPTO would have issued approximately 5,000 patentss technology-related, Politico notes.

In a Tweet, author and former Facebook investor Roger McNamee describe Clearview’s efforts as “a perfect example of our broken patent / copyright system.” “

And while Clearview recently Recount CNET does not intend to create a consumer version of its products, the patent filing includes details that appear to go beyond traditional law enforcement, such as business or dating.

The patent comes as Clearview continues to consolidate itself as one of the hottest new tools for law enforcement in the United States despite the lack of meaningful federal oversight of data privacy. A series of BuzzFeed surveys conducted earlier shows just how prevalent Clearview has become, noting that people from 1,803 public agencies have used the technology in the past year. The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and ICE have all called themselves Clearview clients.

At the same time, public opposition to Clearview (and facial recognition in general) has grown. As recently as last week, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office tentatively fine the company £ 17million for allegedly breaking UK data protection laws. The move came weeks after Australia (Ton-That’s birthplace) order Clearview to stop data scraping in the country after determining that it violated the country’s privacy protections.

Before that, the company was hurry to withdraw from Canada last year following two federal inquiries into its activities. Privacy groups in Austria, France, Greece, Italy and the UK have taken legal action against the company and filed complaints with their respective regulators. Private companies have also pushed back Clearview. Google and Youtube, along along with LinkedIn, Twitter and Venmo, all have sent cease and desist orders to Clearview in 2020 demanding that the company stop removing images from its platforms without it. consent to participate companies or their users.

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