A controversial facial recognition startup that harvested billions of images from social media sites has struck partnerships with more than 600 law enforcement agencies, it has claimed.
The firm, Clearview AI, enables users to match photos of individuals to their social media profiles and could herald the start of “a dystopian future”, according to one of its biggest backers.
Clearview, which was founded in 2016, has also developed a feature for augmented reality glasses, potentially allowing users to instantly identify anyone they pass in the street.
The startup’s products are currently in use by the FBI, Department for Homeland Security and local police forces across the US, the New York Times’ (NYT) reported over the weekend. Officers have used it to help solve crimes including shoplifting, murder and fraud.
The revelations come as lawmakers take steps to crack down on the use of live facial recognition, citing privacy and governance concerns. The European Commission revealed last week that it was considering banning the technology from public areas for up to five years.
During the ban, officials would be tasked with devising “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed”, the commission said.
David Scalzo, an early investor who works for Kirenaga Partners, told the NYT: “Laws have to determine what’s legal, but you can’t ban technology. Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can’t ban it.”
Peter Thiel, a Paypal and Palantir co-founder and early Facebook investor, is also one of the backers of the firm.
Clearview did not immediately respond to NS Tech’s questions about whether it has partnered with any British police forces or security agencies.