Ukraine’s ministry of defense reportedly started using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology on Saturday, March 13. According to a report by Reuters, Clearview AI’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That sent a letter to Kyiv ‘offering support’. Clearview cited uncovering Russian assailants, combating misinformation and identifying the dead as the proximate motive behind the offer.
Clearview AI which has been hit by multiple lawsuits, especially from Europe claims to have a database with over 10 billion images, for which, over 2 billion are from the Russian social media service VKontakte. The move comes barely a week after an Italian data protection agency penalized Clearview €20 million for breaching EU law. “The findings revealed that the personal data held by the company, including biometric and geolocation data, are processed illegally, without an adequate legal basis, which certainly cannot be the legitimate interest of the American company,” the Guarantor for the Protection of Personal Data (GPDP) said in a press release.
Ton-That added that the startup’s database can help Ukraine identify the dead more easily than trying to match fingerprints and works even if there is facial damage. According to Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project in New York, however, facial recognition could misidentify people at checkpoints and in battle. A mismatch could lead to civilian deaths, just like unfair arrests have arisen from police use. “We’re going to see well-intentioned technology backfiring and harming the very people it’s supposed to help,” commented Fox.
In January, The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded Clearview AI a patent for using publicly-available data — including mugshots, social media profiles, and news sites — to match “similar photos using its proprietary facial recognition algorithm.“This distinction is more than an intellectual property protection; it is a clear acknowledgment of Clearview AI’s technological innovation in the artificial intelligence industry,” said Ton-That in a press release.
By March 13, Ukraine’s economic ministry said Russia had caused more than $119 billion in losses to Ukrainian infrastructure.