Clearview AI wants to add facial identification to contact tracing
posted Saturday May 2, 2020 by Scott Ertz
Since the concept of contact tracing was first announced, it has faced privacy and accuracy concerns. While Apple and Google addressed concerns, other firms who have been tapped for additional technologies are still under fire. One of the most recent to draw attention is a company that is used to the negative spotlight - Clearview AI. Many people around the world have been worried about the privacy and accuracy of the technology. These are definitely two topics that should stay as far apart as possible.
However, despite the obviousness of the fallout here, Clearview has been in talks to use its facial recognition technology in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. A lot of people see this as a ploy by the company to get involved in government processes so that they can work their magic in selling their law enforcement products. One of the loudest oppositions to Clearview being involved in this fight is Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who sent a letter to the company asking for information on their discussions and plans. In fact, he demands that the company turn over the names of any agencies they are in discussions with, and any contract terms they are working on or have signed.
The rationale behind this demand is the fear of Clearview's technology. For starters, the accuracy of the technology has been questionable at best, and basing a medically-focused program around dubious tracing could be harmful to people. Using their facial identification in large crowds to determine who has been in contact could inaccurately mark people as sick and spread false panic.
More importantly, however, is the increase in public privacy violations. Clearview stores all images it is sent for analysis indefinitely, meaning that any image captured and processed by this system would be stored forever and used to expand its facial identification system. By installing cameras attached to the system in high trafficked areas, Clearview would have a better idea of who it has NOT identified. This will certainly be contested by more than just a single Senator. Expect privacy and consumer advocacy groups to be right behind.