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Clearview AI startup collecting photo for US intelligence was hacked

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Clearview AI, which is developing a face recognition system for law enforcement agencies in the US and Canada, has been hacked, reports Mashable.

Clearview AI has existed since 2017, but it became widely known in January 2020, when the New York Times wrote about startups. Clearview AI has developed a face recognition application that uses the image database of Facebook, YouTube and other sites. A similar FindFace service was developed in Russia in 2016 – it also made it possible to find a person on VKontakte using photographs.

Clearview AI claims its system will help law enforcement find criminals and their victims. Currently, the service has more than 3 billion photos collected on social networks. To find a person, you need to upload his image to the program.

The service will find his photographs taken in public places, and give links to sources. According to Clearview AI, the system finds up to 75% of matches, and more than 600 US law enforcement agencies use the services of the service.

In January, large Internet companies sent letters to an American startup asking them to stop using photos of their users. Ironically, the cybersecurity-focused company itself was hit by a data leak.

According to The Daily Beast, hackers gained access to data, including “the entire list of customers, the number of searches made by these customers, and the number of accounts created by each client.”

In a notice sent to customers at the disposal of The Daily Beast, the company claimed that “the Clearview systems or network were not compromised,” and that the security vulnerability was fixed, and that none of the customer search histories were available.

Commenting on the leak, lawyer Tor Ekeland concluded that “unfortunately, data leakage is an integral part of life in the 21st century.”

This is very important because the company’s customers are primarily law enforcement agencies. The company convinces that the database, which has about 3 billion face images, has not leaked to the network.

A report published by Clearview AI did not explicitly state that it was a hack, but a data leak could have unpleasant consequences for US departments working with it.

According to Buzzfeed News, the company plans a rapid international expansion, including to countries with authoritarian leadership, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Brazil.

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