Clearview AI has customer data stolen and app removed by Apple
posted Saturday Feb 29, 2020 by Scott Ertz
Since the company accidentally came out of stealth mode, Clearview AI has had continuing trouble. While law enforcement loves the ability to identify people with their phones, public perception and the reception by privacy advocates have been incredibly negative. To add insult to injury, the company has refused to discuss or disclose exactly who they have been working with.
Some seemed determined to make sure that the list was made public. Someone accessed the company's computers, either internally or externally, and leaked the list. In addition, the person accessed several of the accounts created by these customers and the number of searches performed by each. The company seems very careful in its wording, never describing the data access as a hack.
If you are a law enforcement agency using Clearview's technology, the release of your participation might be a problem. Not only do criminals within your jurisdiction know that you're using it, but so does everyone else. When it was revealed that a jurisdiction in New Jersey had accessed Clearview's app, the state banned its use entirely. When using controversial technology and techniques, secrecy is key.
Also, being able to access the technology at all becomes important, as well. That has also become difficult, as this week Apple removed the Clearview AI app from its platform. While Apple removes apps every day, this one was more difficult than usual. That's because the app is not distributed through the App Store, but instead by using an enterprise distribution method. This process is designed to allow corporations to distribute apps to their employees without making them publicly accessible. Clearview violated Apple's developer agreement by using the process to distribute the app outside of the company, so Apple disabled the developer account. This move not only disables the future distribution of the app but uninstalls it from current iPhones and iPads.
Clearview AI is just seeing the beginning of its problems, however. As states like New Jersey ban the technology and lawsuits are filed against the company, keeping the lights on is going to be a difficult task.