A startup called Clearview AI is an app that could track down a stranger through facial recognition and comparing their photos to more than three billion photos on Facebook, Venmo, YouTube, and other social media sites. According to Clearview’s website, this is “Technology to help solve the hardest crimes,” meaning it’s being used by authorities to “identify child molesters, murderers, suspected terrorists, and other dangerous quickly.”
In essence, it’s a useful app. We’ve seen enough true crime documentaries to know how difficult catching criminals can be. But take note that anyone can still access public information on Clearview.
The website explains that Clearview searches public information on the open web. So if you don’t have your social media accounts on private, the app will most likely find your photos. CNet reported that some privacy advocates warned against police officers receiving false matches and how stalkers could abuse the app’s facial recognition technology. Even the US House Oversight Committee is skeptical of the app.
“We’re going to have to really grapple with what are the parameters of protecting privacy and controlling the use of this technology,” said Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly during the House Oversight Committee’s hearing on Jan. 15.
Again, we understand how Clearview is essential in catching criminals. But imagine if evil people could take random photos of women and other vulnerable individuals, and they can input it on Clearview so they can find their target’s name, address, and other public information. This is an app that Joe Goldberg would love.
This doesn’t help in easing our paranoia, especially with reports of abductions happening in the Philippines recently. In the US, a 2018 report from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) cited that over 60 percent of stalking victims (mostly women) said that they feared something bad would happen to themselves, their partner, or their family.
Sure, Clearview is only available for law enforcement and they have to request access to the app before using it. But who’s to say that people won’t fabricate information to get access? How would you feel safe knowing that law enforcement or people with bad intentions can obtain information about you?
The best you can do right now is to make sure your social media accounts are set to private and that you don’t share sensitive information. You never know what kind of people are looking at your stuff online.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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