back to article Ukraine uses Clearview AI to identify slain Russian soldiers

Ukraine's vice prime minister has confirmed Clearview AI's controversial facial recognition system is being used to identify dead Russian soldiers just weeks after it started using the tech in the conflict. "As a courtesy to the mothers of those soldiers, we are disseminating this information over social media to at least let …

  1. andrewmm

    Fallen soldier identification

    Is it not against the Geneva convention to publicly identify fallen solders ?

    There is the red cross crescent for this ..

    If I'd lost my child in war,

    I would want to know,

    but I'd rather not find it looking on a web site,

    or via an email,

    1. cray74

      Re: Fallen soldier identification

      Is it not against the Geneva convention to publicly identify fallen solders ?

      Article 4 of the 1929 Geneva Convention indicates that combatants should strive to identify and report deaths. Subsequent Geneva Conventions say the same thing. [Ref. 1] So, the Ukraine's claim of doing this to alert parents is legally correct, if non-traditional. Given the Ukraine's likely additional motivations of trying to demoralize Russians, the matter's more questionable.

      On that note, the Washington Post (among others) is arguing that showing the bodies of fallen soldiers violated the Geneva Conventions' requirement to protect POWs from "insults and public curiosity." The idea behind this clause was that POWs shouldn't be paraded through streets where they could be beaten, humiliated, showed with unpleasant materials, etc. This clause pre-dated widespread photo journalism and TV broadcasts, leading to the UK's guidance for journalists [Ref. 2]. The general idea is, "Don't show living POWs, particularly if their dignity is compromised." The US raised a fuss about the 2016 incident where Iran captured sailors and released images of them [Ref. 3]. The Ukraine's release of videos of Russia POWs earlier in March falls afoul of this rule.

      However, most material on "insults and public curiosity" emphasize treatment of the living. The Geneva Conventions' guidance on bodies of the dead is more nebulous with respect to sharing photographs [Ref. 4]. The Conventions are pretty clear that fallen soldiers' bodies should not be mutilated and should be treated with dignity. It's likely that someone could formally object to the Ukraine's use of Clearview and alerting (or taunting) parents of fallen soldiers as a violation of the bodies' dignity.

      Note: my search was not exhaustive so I might've missed precedents where photographs of the dead constituted a war crime.

      REFERENCES

      [1] International Red Cross's position on identifying war dead

      [2] UK's interpretation of insults and public curiosity

      [3] Captured US sailors: legal implications

      [4] Treatment of dead soldiers

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Fallen soldier identification

      I don't think Ukraine is terribly worried about the Geneva convention, given the multiple videos of them humiliating Russian captives.

      There's also the recently released video of POWs being shot in the leg, but I haven't seen any confirmation that the video is of recent events or who is committing the war crime.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Fallen soldier identification

      For mothers who have not heard from the sons for weeks if not months this might come as a blessing. Russia is still claiming that any conscripts in Ukraine are there by mistake…

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Fallen soldier identification

        "Russia is still claiming that any conscripts in Ukraine are there by mistake."

        True, but not the conscripts' mistake.

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Do Russian soldiers have an ID number on their uniform? If so, it would seem to me that the Ukrainians' humanitarian duty to relatives would be satisfied by telling the Russian military that ID. This soubds a bit like a propoganda tool being used as a PR stunt by the technology company involved.

    Also, false positives, anyone? Fatal injuries can be messy things.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Do Russian soldiers have an ID number on their uniform? If so, it would seem to me that the Ukrainians' humanitarian duty to relatives would be satisfied by telling the Russian military that ID.

      The real problem here is the Russian military denying the info and not informing the next of kin. And the numbers are rapidly approaching the level were manual processing isn't feasible anymore.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Also a useful 'German tank wheels' attack

        If you can identify the people killed in each unit and what regions they came from you can work out if units are conscripts/'volunteers' from poor republics or spread from all over country = probably professionals

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          They're doing that mainly by listening in to the non-encrypted radio chatter, which is why they know that Russia is now deploying not just some troops, but entire battle groups from the Eastern Military District (Siberia). Ukrainian troops can all understand Russian and recognise many of the accents.

    2. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Do Russian soldiers have an ID number on their uniform?

      Yes, they wear an ID number that their family would know. The face recognition will be to gain more information on the unit, as has already been said, hopefully not just for propaganda.

      The morality off this in context is Russia is leaving it's dead and refusing attempts to bury civilians.

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    Well we all know

    The major failings of many to many facial identification - and it is probably even harder when someone is dead and maybe has facial injuries as well. But I see Ukraine's point, Russia has no incentive to notify relatives in a timely manner or at all if their sons are killed or captured, because they want to preserve the illusion for their people it all going well and according to plan. By letting the family know maybe they can have the Russian people put some pressure their government that will force Putin to retreat earlier than he would otherwise.

    Whether it will really work out that way is another matter, especially as some families will be erroneously notified and that will be painted as Ukraine trying to sow discord. Other families will refuse to accept it given the source, considering only word from the Russian goverment as truth.

    Unfortunately for family of fallen Russian soldiers, given how many have been left to rot by their military and may end up in some sort of mass grave along with Ukrainian dead in a similar situation, there will probably be thousands of soldiers whose family never learn their fate. Hopefully Russia will eventually own up to the fact that they are probably dead to their families have closure, but I suspect they will try to claim everyone whose fate isn't known is a deserter to save face, since there are plenty of those already.

    They are even playing this game with wounded, reportedly using trains with blacked out windows to transport injured soldiers, and filling hospitals all over Belarus to avoid having too many showing up back home leading to the public questioning Putin's war.

  4. sreynolds Silver badge

    Is this good for clearview?

    I mean seriously, the product is allegedly based on illegally scraped data, used to identify people in crowds for use by totalitarian regimes and now another purported use is to help notify casualties from a conflagration?

    So why would any law enforcement and/or other public body want to be associated with clearview is beyond my comprehension.

    I am supervised that Bezos's ring unit isn't in there clamoring for sales also. What about do no evil google - surely they are involved too these days also.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022