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5 Feb 2020

Caroline Haskins, Ryan Mac & Logan McDonald, BuzzFeed News

Clearview AI wants to sell its facial recognition software to authoritarian regimes around the world

A document obtained via a public records request reveals that Clearview has been touting a “rapid international expansion”... to at least 22 more countries, some of which have committed human rights abuses. The document... includes the United Arab Emirates, a country historically hostile to political dissidents, and Qatar and Singapore, the penal codes of which criminalize homosexuality... Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That declined to explain whether Clearview is currently working in these countries or hopes to work in them. He did confirm that the company, which had previously claimed that it was working with 600 law enforcement agencies, has relationships with two countries on the map. “Clearview is focused on doing business in USA and Canada,” Ton-That said. “Many countries from around the world have expressed interest in Clearview.”

Albert Fox Cahn, a fellow at New York University and the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project [said]... “It’s deeply alarming that they would sell this technology in countries with such a terrible human rights track record, enabling potentially authoritarian behavior by other nations."... The company, which has received cease-and-desist orders from TwitterYouTube, and Facebook argues that it has a First Amendment right to harvest data from social media. “There is also a First Amendment right to public information,” Ton-That told CBS NewsWednesday. “So the way we have built our system is to only take publicly available information and index it that way.”

... [According to Cahn] “Just because Clearview may have a right to scrape some of this data, that doesn’t mean that they have an immunity from lawsuits from those of us whose information is being sold without our consent.”