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Clearview facial recognition app may pose 'chilling' privacy risk, senator says

A US lawmaker is demanding answers from the controversial company behind an app that can ID a person based on a single photo.

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Sen. Ed Markey on the Clearview app: "I am deeply concerned that it is capable of fundamentally dismantling Americans' expectation that they can move, assemble, or simply appear in public without being identified."

Bill Clark/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts issued an open letter Thursday demanding answers from the creator of a controversial facial recognition app used by US law enforcement. The letter to the CEO of Clearview AI, Hoan Ton-That, follows a New York Times investigation into the software company and its app, which can identify people by comparing their photo to a database of pictures scraped from social media and other sites.  

In the letter, Markey requests information from Clearview, including a full list of any entities and law enforcement agencies currently using the technology, as well as details on any past security breaches and on Clearview's employee access privileges. Markey also asks if Clearview's technology is able to recognize whether the biometric information uploaded to its systems points to children under the age of 13. 

"Any technology with the ability to collect and analyze individuals' biometric information has alarming potential to impinge on the public's civil liberties and privacy," Markey wrote in his letter to Ton-That. "Clearview's product appears to pose particularly chilling privacy risks, and I am deeply concerned that it is capable of fundamentally dismantling Americans' expectation that they can move, assemble, or simply appear in public without being identified."

Markey has previously questioned tech companies such as Amazon over the use of facial recognition technology. And in November, a bipartisan Senate bill called for limits on the use of facial recognition technology by US law enforcement agencies. 

Clearview didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. 

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