Facial Recognition Technology Helps Solve Crimes, Raises Privacy Concerns

Big tech companies like Amazon have said they are limiting their sale of facial recognition software to law enforcement.

Clearview AI does not. It is a private company based in New York. Clearview AI provides a facial recognition search engine that contains 3 billion images taken from the internet. The search engine identifies images of people’s faces. The company claims that more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies use the software.

Hoan Ton-That is the managing director and co-founder of the company. He said: “The way it works is very similar to Google, but instead of putting words, you put photos of faces, and it will find anything publicly available on the internet that looks like that face. “

Police say facial recognition software is an important tool in combating and solving crime. But its growing use has raised concerns that there are too few rules in place for when and how the police can use it.

Software limitations

Police usually have image search engines that can watch drivers Licence photos or other images among police records.

Clearview AI has billions of images collected from social media and other sites. Internet companies said the images were taken in violation of their rules. However, Clearview AI’s Ton-That said the company only takes information that is publicly available.

A law enforcement tool

Clearview AI describes a case on its website in which federal agents were able to identify a man suspected of sexually abusing a girl from an image using its search engine.

Ton-That said the software was also used to identify suspects who stormed the United States Capitol in January.

On this Wednesday, January 6, 2021, archive photo, violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo / John Minchillo, file)

He said Clearview AI was helpful in investigating many people who may not have photos in police databases.

A search using the Clearview AI search engine takes about a second. Ton-That said police were able to quickly identify suspects in the Jan.6 incident. They could also reduce false results and speed up the investigation process.

What about privacy?

When protests against police methods took place in the United States last year, Amazon and some other companies banned the sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement. They haven’t said when they’re going to restart.

Clearview AI continues to provide services to law enforcement agencies. Internet companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter and civil rights activists warn of its power and possible abuse of people’s privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, is a nonprofit advocacy group. She filed a lawsuit against Clearview AI in Chicago and California.

Kate Ruane is a lawyer for the ACLU. She said facial recognition technology allows the government to monitor every aspect of citizens’ lives.

Federal, state and local governments, she said, “admit they use it, but they don’t tell us how, when or how often.”

She said there must be more laws and supervision. She calls for a total freeze on technology until then.

Facial recognition legislation

In recent months, lawmakers have introduced bills that would limit police use of data they purchase that is “illegally got. “

Ton-That agrees that there needs to be more openness and even rules for the use of technology. But he doesn’t think it should be banned for police use. He said he had succeeded in solving crimes.

Ton-That also says that people who use the system must agree to abide by its rules. He said that the messages that appear in the software help prevent its misuse.

The ACLU and other civil rights groups also say they are concerned about what might happen if governments like China had the technology.

In this photo taken on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, visitors are tracked by facial recognition technology from state-owned surveillance equipment maker Hikvision at the Security China 2018 Exhibition in Beijing, China.  (AP Photo / Ng Han Guan)

In this photo taken on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, visitors are tracked by facial recognition technology from state-owned surveillance equipment maker Hikvision at the Security China 2018 Exhibition in Beijing, China. (AP Photo / Ng Han Guan)

Ton-That said his company does not sell its software to foreign governments. He primarily serves law enforcement in the United States

Ton-That said the company had worked with other private organizations for investigative purposes, but decided to stay with law enforcement. He said, “This is the easiest, most explainable, and best use case of our technology. “

I am Grégory Stachel.

Julie Taboh reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in this story

Licence nm an official document, card, etc., which gives you permission to do, use or have something

regulation nm a rule or official law that says how to do something

get v. to gain or obtain (something) usually by effort

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