Ukraine launches spot invading using Clearview AI’s facial recognition

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Saturday began using Clearview AI’s face recognition technology, the company’s chief executive told Reuters, after the US startup offered to expose Russian attackers, fight misinformation and identify the dead.

Ukraine is getting free access to Clearview AI’s powerful search engine for the face, allowing authorities to examine potentially interested people at checkpoints, among other uses, said Lee Oloski, an adviser to Clearview and a former diplomat under US President Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

According to a copy seen by Reuters, the plans began after Russia invaded Ukraine and sent a letter of support to Clearview chief executive Juan Ton-Dat Kiev.

Clearview said it had not offered the technology to Russia, calling it a “special operation” in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said it was considering offers from US-based artificial intelligence companies such as Clearview. Many Western businesses have pledged to help Ukraine, providing Internet hardware, cyber security tools and other assistance.

The founder of Clearview says that his startup has more than 2 billion images from the Russian social media service VKontakte, with a total of more than 10 billion image databases.

That database could help Ukraine identify the dead more easily than trying to match fingerprints, and works even with facial damage, Ton-That writes. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that the efficiency of digestion technology declined while a study from the 2021 conference showed promising results.

The letter from Ton-That added that Clearview’s technology could be used to help reunite refugees separated from their families, identify Russian operatives and stop false social media posts about the war.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. He and Oloski said other parts of the Ukrainian government are expected to deploy Clearview in the coming days.

VKontakte Images makes ClearView’s dataset more comprehensive than PimEyes, a publicly available image search engine that people use to identify people in combat images, Oloski says. VKontakte did not immediately respond to a request for comment; US social media company Facebook, now Meta Platform Inc., has demanded that Clearview stop taking its data.

At least one critic has said that facial recognition can mislead people at checkpoints and in battle. Albert Foxconn, executive director of the New York-based Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said inconsistencies, such as unjust arrests from police use, could lead to civilian deaths.

“We see well-intentioned technology backfiring and harming those who are supposed to help,” he said.

Ton-Thatt said Clearview should never be used as the sole source of identification and he did not want the technology to be used in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which created legal standards for humanitarian treatment during the war.

Like other users who are training in Ukraine and need to input a case number and reason to search before asking, he said.

Clearview, which primarily sells to U.S. law enforcement agencies, is suing the United States for violating the right to privacy by taking pictures from the web. Clearview claims that its data collection is similar to how Google Search works. Still, several countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, consider its practices illegal.

Cane described the dead man as the least dangerous way to deploy technology in war, but said that “once you introduce these systems and associated databases into a war zone, you have no control over how it will be used or misused.”

Thomson Reuters 2022

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