The facial recognition app known as Clearview AI has been suspended from the Apple iOS developer program after it was discovered that the app had violated Apple’s terms in its Developer Enterprise Program.
The app will no longer be available for use on all iPhones until the problem has been resolved to the satisfaction of Apple Inc. Clearview AI’s account was immediately suspended once the iPhone manufacturer learned of the violations.
Apple will not be the only entity to have issues with such behavior from Clearview.
The facial recognition startup will now be open to facing lawsuits and other challenges from privacy advocates all across the globe.
Clearview used the developer account at Apple to distribute the facial recognition software to customers for whom Apple had not authorized it, specifically law enforcement departments and others.
These customers were able to bypass the Apple App Store, and in turn, violate the terms of agreement there, as well as the privacy of Apple users.
Apple’s requirements for use of the Apple App Store to developers are very specific in that their software cannot bypass the Apple App Store or violate user privacy.
Because of this action, Apple suspended the account of Clearview AI to protect its customer’s privacy and cover themselves as well in potential lawsuits.
Clearview AI has been given 14 days to respond to the action and show that they have rectified the issues which caused the suspension.
Founder and CEO of Clearview AI, Hoan Ton-That gave the following statement, “We are in contact with Apple and working on complying with their terms and conditions. The app cannot be used without a valid Clearview account. A user can download the app, but not perform any searches without proper authorization and credentials.”
The investigation and inquiry into the New York-based company known as Clearview AI began back in January when the New York Times revealed that the company was allowing law enforcement agencies to have access to people’s photos from their iPhones.
These photos were matched against those of unknown suspects in hopes of catching criminals.
Unfortunately, such tactics can be inaccurate, leading to the harassment and even arrest of innocent citizens.
With the Clearview Facial Recognition App, according to the New York Times, a person can take a photo of a stranger, upload it, and get to see all of that person’s private photos, based on facial recognition.
Links to where the photo appears online is also available.
The CEO boasts that his company currently has over three billion images of people who are not even aware that their photos have been stored.
These photos are not only gathered from Apple apps but are also scraped from social media outlets such as Facebook, Venmo, YouTube and millions of other sites.
Law enforcement agencies are then given access to these photos so that they can compare them against photos in their databases.
Not even the United States Government has ever devised an application that invaded the privacy of its citizens as much as this one does.
Law agencies at the federal and state levels who admitted to using the facial recognition technology and billions of photos provided by Clearview claim that they had very little knowledge of how the app worked or even who was behind the development of the app and the distribution of those photos.
They have admitted to using the app to identify those accused of serious crimes such as murder and sexual exploitation of children, but also lesser crimes such as shoplifting, credit card fraud, and identity theft.
According to the New York Times article, many larger companies have admitted that they have the means to create such an app, but have refrained from doing so because of its blatant violation of their customers’ privacy.
The chairman of Google in 2011 stated that this was the one technology that even Google itself shied away from because it was just too controversial and could be used “in a very bad way.”
Some cities in the United States have outright bans on the use of facial recognition technology by police because it can be inaccurate and violates the privacy of citizens.
Clearview has changed a lot of that.
Without the public even being aware, over 600 law enforcement agencies have been allowed to use their facial recognition app to search for suspects.
Included in Clearview’s code is the language that gives the app the potential to work with augmented-reality glasses.
With these glasses, the wearer would be able to recognize everyone on sight, whether a protester at a gathering or a person they met at a concert.
Not only would the user be able to get the person’s name, but also where they lived, what they did, who their friends are, their political associations, religious beliefs, and much more.
And that isn’t all. Not only can law enforcement use the Clearview app to search for criminals, but the New York Times investigator discovered that Clearview can see exactly who these law enforcement agencies are investigating.
Facial recognition is not accurate enough in many cases to even give a true identification and still has issues to work out.
It can give false positive matches for people of color, for example, leaving them more susceptible to being falsely investigated, accused, and arrested for a crime.
Apple isn’t the only one who sees an issue with this. Tech giants Twitter, Google, and Facebook have all sent out cease and desist letters concerning Clearview’s use of the photos displayed on their apps.
In New Jersey, a state-wide ban on the use of Clearview apps by law enforcement has been issued until the software has been investigated by the state.
While some criminals may have been caught using this app, there could be future concerns about whether the information used in their arrest was legal and accurate.
Worries of hacker breach and blatant misuse have made the dangers of this app seem far greater than the advantages.
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