back to article Clearview CEO doubles down, claims biz has now scraped over ten billion social media selfies for surveillance

Clearview AI says it has scraped more than 10 billion photographs from people’s public social media accounts for its controversial facial-recognition tool. The startup’s CEO Hoan Ton-That also told Wired his engineers were working on new features to make blurry images sharper and to make it possible to recognize people even if …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "We never want this to be abused in any way"

    Great idea.

    Here's a suggestion : delete your database, destroy the disks and shut the company down.

    Words are just words. Actions are the truth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We never want this to be abused in any way"

      I'm pretty sure "abused" means to him "constrained in any way".

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: "We never want this to be abused in any way"

        because we want to get it right

        The way to get it right is not to do it at all.

        1. MrTuK

          Re: "We never want this to be abused in any way"

          agreed, sadly Pandora's box has already been opened !

    2. MrTuK

      Re: "We never want this to be abused in any way"

      Well you know that will never happen, just remember its techies like us that work on projects like that !

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    It's happening

    We never want this to be abused in any way

    What an odd thing to say. We are probably going to hear "We never wanted this to happen, but it kind of happened" classic next :-)

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: It's happening

      This very much depends on the definintion of "abused" they are using. If the system is used as it was designed it's not being "abused", the fact that the system itself could be termed "abusive" means it is working exactly as designed.

      Also 10b selfies, only operating in the USA (pop 300m) so assuming 25% of that 300m post selfies that's means on average they must have posted over 100 each which seems unlikely so I'm suggesting they lied about the "only USA" bit.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: It's happening

        It seems like an extremely valuable data set for China and other actors. If you could train AI to recognise US or western citizens only, it could be used from simple identification to training autonomous drones to "neutralise" targets without affecting native population.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: It's happening

        > Also 10b selfies, only operating in the USA (pop 300m)

        I guess that has a simple explanation in that there are several "social media", and/or they scraped all pictures posted in those accounts (not just account portraits), in which case 10 billion is rather modest.

        That been said, the "USA only" bit doesn't sound very credible, the big money is elsewhere. Not that the USA doesn't like to keep a tab on the peons, but other countries have more pressing needs and pay better. Besides they admitted they were working in the UK which AFAIK isn't in the USA, so their geography seems quite fuzzy.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It's happening

          "Besides they admitted they were working in the UK which AFAIK isn't in the USA, so their geography seems quite fuzzy."

          Yes, but they did then go on to specify they don't have any EU customers. UK isn't in the EU so, of course, specifying anything "not-USA" after saying they operate "only in the USA" is either superfluous or contradictory.

      3. Citizen of Nowhere

        Re: It's happening

        I think it’s fair to assume that everything they say is a lie.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "only operating in the USA"

        That means they only have business in the USA, not that they scraped only images of US citizens. That is useful to shield them from a GDPR fine that would probably come as soon as they try to have a foot in EU.

        UK is outside EU now, so it's up to ICO to do something - and looking at how the UK government is going to neuter it, ClearView could soon come to a camera next to you, Britons....

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's happening

      I think he might have meant "We never wanted to be found out this way."

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Paired Spheroids

    ... in a sack.

    Sounds just like the average shyster.

  4. ThatOne Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Protection agains sloppy AI

    > US Bill of Rights for humans against AI

    This is definitely a nice thing to hear! It means there is a general realization that "computer says" doesn't work like in the old SciFi shows, computers aren't infallible, quite the contrary, and since they increasingly govern peoples' lives something has to be done to prevent the worst.

    Now obviously this being America the opposition will be hell-bent to avoid this from becoming reality. And since quick and sloppy work is way cheaper to do than a meticulous, bug-free one, AI companies will certainly help them scuttle this... *sigh*

    1. MrTuK

      Re: Protection agains sloppy AI

      In Hollywood you would be correct, but this is real life and these @ssh0les will always find an escape route. Now if we can get his profile pic into a drone !

      1. trindflo Bronze badge

        Re: Protection agains sloppy AI

        Armed with scalding urine?

    2. trindflo Bronze badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Protection agains sloppy AI

      My favorite AI depiction in old SciFi was the original release of rollerball where the idiot operator would just thump the AI until it spewed out something they wanted to hear or marketing gibberish.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: computers aren't infallible

      Ah but Star Trek TOS has already explored that subject, and did a rather good job of it.

  5. cyberdemon Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    His muskiness tweets

    Am I missing something here? Why is there a random snippet about Elon Musk's latest dodgy firmware update in the middle of this article? What does that have to do with Clearview?

    1. Simian Surprise

      Re: His muskiness tweets

      It's "In Brief". The rest of the article also doesn't have anything to do with Clearview.

      El Reg is just collecting a bunch of events they didn't publish as full articles.

  6. Medixstiff

    Good luck getting my ugly mug, my Failbook profile has a chimp scratching it's head as my profile pic. Which is usually what I'm doing when a user comes up to me with one of their "why would you do that" issues they have caused.

    I only have the account for keeping in touch with my sisters family overseas.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Unless, of course, someone else has posted a photo of you and tagged it. No one is safe from the interwebs!

  7. -tim

    Copyright violation?

    They don't have the right to store any photo I post online. What is the current copyright fine per violation?

  8. Bitsminer Silver badge

    "Bill of Rights to guard against the powerful government we had just created"

    Aye, there's the rub.

    The US Constitution, the UK unwritten but allegedly valid constitution, and other Bills, Declarations, Offerings and Scripts all offer one thing:

    Defence against the Government.

    But Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Twitter, and their likenesses are not Government but are trans-national corporate tax-minimizing sub-national "actors" with seriously risk-laden power. And only law, not unbreakable "Constitutions" can limit their power.

    Good luck with that.

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