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6 Apr 2021

Ryan Mac, Caroline Haskins, Brianna Sacks and Logan McDonald, BuzzFeed News

USA: Clearview AI facial recognition tool designed for policing deployed across country with little to no public oversight

"Surveillance Nation", 6 April 2021

A controversial facial recognition tool designed for policing has been quietly deployed across the country with little to no public oversight. According to reporting and data reviewed by BuzzFeed News, more than 7,000 individuals from nearly 2,000 public agencies nationwide have used Clearview AI to search through millions of Americans’ faces, looking for people, including Black Lives Matter protesters, Capitol insurrectionists, petty criminals, and their own friends and family members.

BuzzFeed News has developed a searchable table of 1,803 publicly funded agencies whose employees are listed in the data as having used or tested the controversial policing tool before February 2020. These include local and state police, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Air Force, state healthcare organizations, offices of state attorneys general, and even public schools.

... Some 337 public entities in the dataset confirmed to BuzzFeed News that their employees had tested or worked with the software, while 210 organizations denied any use. Most entities — 1,159 — did not respond to questions about whether they had used it.

Still, the data indicates that Clearview has broadly distributed its facial recognition software to federal agencies and police departments nationwide, offering the app to thousands of police officers and government employees, who at times used it without training or oversight. Often, agencies that acknowledged their employees had used the software confirmed it happened without the knowledge of their superiors, let alone the public they serve.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Hoan Ton-That, the company’s cofounder and CEO, said it was “gratifying to see how quickly Clearview AI has been embraced by US law enforcement.” He declined to answer more than 50 detailed questions about the company's practices and relationships with law enforcement agencies.