Clearview facial recognition helps Ukraine in war

According to rumors from Reuters, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is using Clearview's software to identify the deceased and track down the Russian invaders. Published on 14 March 2022 by Redazione

In the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, a controversial technology such as that of Clearview's facial recognition comes into play, a software already discussed in the past for its ethical and privacy implications. A few days ago, the news of a fine by the Italian Privacy Guarantor against Clearview, whose physiognomy mapping software allegedly violated the principles of the GDPR and implemented "a real biometric monitoring even of people who are in the Italian territory ". The program (widely used among law enforcement agencies especially in the United States) applies biometric analyzes to ten billion images found online or from other public sources and, contrary to what the parent company stated, it would have been used to link the mappings to people royals, including Italian citizens. The Guarantor complains to Clearview the use of the data available from the image file, geolocation and elements in order to trace the identity and physical location of people.

Now, according to documents examined, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry is using this technology to track down Russian soldiers and invaders, to identify those who died in the conflict and to fight disinformation. Purposes in front of which, in the drama of an ongoing war, the concerns of privacy are definitely taking a back seat. It would have been the Australian entrepreneur Hoan Ton-That, founder and CEO of Clearview, who contacted the Ukrainian government and offered his help. Clearview did not make the same offer to Vladimir Putin's acolytes, Reuters points out.

In the document viewed by journalists, the initiative is defined as a "special operation". It is unclear exactly how the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (which did not respond to reporters' contact attempts) is using Clearview's software, but we do know that the company has granted free access to its database of ten billion images. including two billion photographs posted on the Russian social media VKontakte.

Thus, as explained by Lee Wolosky, a consultant to Clearview (and former diplomat for the US government during the tenure of Barack Obama), it will be possible to use biometric analyzes to identify people at checkpoints. There are also those, like video surveillance expert Albert Cahn, who report the risk of possible software-induced identification errors. If the use of biometric technologies for the identification of the deceased does not present too high risks, in a war one cannot be sure of anything and "once these systems and associated databases are introduced, there is no longer any control over their use or bad use, ”notes Cahn.