Written by Nick Heer.

Clearview Is Laundering Its Reputation in Ukraine

Thomas Brewster, Forbes:

[…] On Wednesday, deputy prime minister and head of the Digital Transformation Ministry in Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, confirmed on his Telegram profile that surveillance technology was being used in this way, a matter of weeks after Clearview AI, the New York-based facial recognition provider, started offering its services to Ukraine for those same purposes. Fedorov didn’t say what brand of artificial intelligence was being used in this way, but his department later confirmed to Forbes that it was Clearview AI, which is providing its software for free. They’ll have a good chance of getting some matches: In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said the company had a store of 10 billion users’ faces scraped from social media, including 2 billion from Russian Facebook alternative Vkontakte. Fedorov wrote in a Telegram post that the ultimate aim was to “dispel the myth of a ‘special operation’ in which there are ‘no conscripts’ and ‘no one dies.’”

Tim Cushing, Techdirt:

Or maybe it’s just Clearview jumping on the bandwagon by supporting a country that already has the support of the most powerful governments in the world. Grabbing onto passing coattails and contacting journalists to get the word out about the company’s reverse-heel turn is savvy marketing. But it’s little more than that. The tech may prove useful (if the Ukraine government is even using it), but that shouldn’t be allowed to whitewash Clearview’s (completely earned) terrible reputation. Even if it’s useful, it’s only useful because the company was willing to do what no other company was: scrape millions of websites and sell access to the scraped data to anyone willing to pay for it.

It has been abundantly clear for a long time that accurate facial recognition can have its benefits, just as recording everyone’s browser history could make it easier to investigate crime. Even if this seems helpful, it is still an uneasy technology developed by ethically bankrupt company. It is hard for me to see this as much more than Clearview cynically using a war as a marketing opportunity given that it spread news of its participation weeks before anyone in the Ukrainian government confirmed it.