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Clearview AI To Get Facial Recognition Patent; Should We Be Scared?
Clearview AI, the firm that created the controversial facial recognition and scrapes social media platforms to add pictures of people on its database, is about to be awarded a patent for its technology. The firm recently confirmed that it has received a notice of allowance from the US Trademark and Patent Office. This means the company's application will be granted once it pays the administrative fees.
News of the notice was brought to light by Politico, which said critics worry that awarding patents to such technologies could boost the development of similar techs before lawmakers can come up with guidelines and rules for them.
Is It Only To Identify Criminal Suspects?
Clearview AI's system is used by law enforcement firms such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The system has been under a lot of heat because it feeds its database with billions of images by trawling social media platforms and harvesting them without the consent of the users.
The company claims the pictures it has gathered are available to the public. But the approach has promoted cease-and-desist letters for big firms like Twitter, Facebook, and others. Besides, officials in Britain, Canada, and Australia have also called out Clearview AI over data privacy laws.
The company CEO Hoan Ton-That has said Clearview AI's system is created to identify criminal suspects and not for surveillance. He said that the company is "committed to the responsible use" of its technology, including working closely with policymakers on facial recognition systems. "We do not intend to make a consumer-grade version of Clearview AI," the company said in a statement to CNET.
Technology Can Be Used With Nefarious Intentions
Critics have argued that apps or other consumer versions of such a technology could allow anyone to capture your image without consent and find out personal data about you. Politico suggests that Clearview AI's patent application lays out its uses beyond identifying suspects.
"In many instances, it may be desirable for an individual to know more about a person that they meet, such as through business, dating, or other relationship," the patent application says. "Therefore, a strong need exists for an improved method and system to obtain information about a person and selectively provide the information based on predetermined criteria."
That said, facial recognition systems have been long criticized for their accuracy that has led to false arrests as well. In particular, the systems have faced trouble recognizing people of color and women. However, law enforcement officers claim that the systems have come in handy to catch shoplifters, murderers, and child abusers.
Clearview AI Is Sure About Its Technology
The company told Politico that it hasn't come across any instance where its system was responsible for a wrongful arrest, and the report also calls Clearview AI's technology highly accurate as shown in an audit by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Lawmakers are still working on making regulations for facial recognition. In June, the Government Accountability Office said 20 US agencies will be making use of facial recognition systems; however, most of them lacked the required knowledge about them.