Twitter demands Clearview AI stops using its images to fuel facial recognition

The startup's facial recognition tech is used by law enforcement and can match people to images from multiple social networking sites

Twitter has demanded that an AI company stops taking images from its website to be used with facial recognition software, and deletes the images it has collected thus far.

Clearview AI received a cease and desist letter from Twitter, after it emerged it has harvested more than three billion photographs from sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to The New York Times

Clearview's facial recognition app is reportedly used by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and some 6000 other law-enforcement agencies around the world. 

Federal and state law enforcement officers had limited knowledge of how Clearview worked, according to the NYT, but still used it to solve a range of crimes from shoplifting to homicide.  

On Tuesday, Twitter sent the letter to Clearview, according to the BBC, requesting the deletion of its data as per its developer agreement policy, which states: "Information derived from Twitter content may not be used by, or knowingly displayed, distributed, or otherwise made available to any public-sector entity for surveillance purposes."

Clearview is owned by an Australian called Hoan Ton-That. His app allows users to take a picture of any random person, uploaded it and see any public photos of said person with links to where those images appeared.

Now, the sites those photos came from are taking notice. 

"Scraping Facebook information or adding it to a directory are prohibited by our policies, so we are reviewing the claims about this company and will take appropriate action if we find they are violating our rules." a Facebook company spokesperson told IT Pro

IT Pro has contacted Clearview, but according to the NYT, the firm is shrouded in secrecy. The company had one employee listed on LinkedIn, a sales manager called "John Good" which allegedly turned out to be the CEO, Ton-Hat. 

The Clearview mystery comes at a time when facial recognition is under heavy scrutiny. Last week it was reported that the EU is looking into a five-year ban on the technology so it can work out how best to regulate it. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai agreed with the idea, whereas Microsoft President Brad Smith said it needed to keep using it to improve it. 

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