Clearview AI probed over facial recognition sales to foreign governments
Sen. Edward Markey is also concerned that Clearview AI may have violated online child privacy laws.
Corinne ReichertSenior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Sen. Edward J. Markey wants answers from controversial facial recognition app Clearview AI, noting that the app is being marketed to foreign countries with authoritarian regimes and could also be collecting and processing images of children taken from social media platforms.
"Reporting suggests that Clearview has already provided its software to organizations in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, countries governed by authoritarian regimes with poor track records on human rights," Markey wrote in a letter to Hoan Ton-That, Clearview AI CEO and founder. "The use of sophisticated
technology is concerning even in a democracy with strong civil liberties, but its export to certain foreign countries could enable mass surveillance and repression of minorities."
His letter adds that Clearview's practice of scraping photos of children on
would also violate US federal laws protecting children's
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Markey, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has asked Clearview whether it plans to sell its tech outside of the US; how the company can guarantee its tech won't be used to repress or abuse human rights; whether Clearview has taken steps to ensure it complies with children's online privacy laws; and whether any facial images were accessed during the recent Clearview AI database hack.
Watch this: Clearview AI's facial recognition goes creepier than most surveillance tech
In addition, that report said Clearview AI has expanded to law enforcement agencies in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Later Tuesday, the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology also published a letter written to the Clearview AI CEO expressing deep concern about the reported hack on the company's database.
"Clearview AI's work appears subject to very little government oversight, despite the serious privacy questions raised," reads the letter, signed by Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank D. Lucas. "Clearview AI needs to provide answers to some basic questions about how the company collects, uses and protects US citizens' data."
The committee wants answers to its questions by March 17, including "how data breaches at your company could affect ongoing law enforcement operations."
Clearview didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Originally published March 3, 12:40 p.m. PT. Update, 3:09 p.m.: Adds details about letter from House committee.