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Clearview AI Is Enroute to Win an US Patent for Facial Recognition Technology

The government wants to have a "search engine for faces," but the experts are wary.

If you haven't heard of Clearview AI then you should, as the company's facial recognition technology has likely already spotted you. Clearview’s software goes through public images from social media to help law enforcement identify wanted individuals by matching their public images with those found in government databases or surveillance footage. Now, the company just got permission to be awarded a U.S. federal patent, according to Politico.

The firm is not without its fair share of controversy. It has long faced opposition from privacy advocates and civil rights groups. The first says it makes use of citizens' faces without their knowledge or consent. The latter warns of the fact that facial recognition technology is notoriously prone to racially-based errors, misidentifying women and minorities much more frequently than white men and sometimes leading to false arrests. 

However, the company claims it has not had a single incident result in a wrongful arrest, and, in addition, a recent audit by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology found it to be highly accurate. However, even if that were to be true, there is the issue that the technology is advancing at a much higher pace than the regulations surrounding it.

Legislators and regulators simply have not had the time to introduce the legislation that could make the technology a bit safer for humans. Facial recognition technology is metastasizing throughout the federal government, and I am deeply concerned about this trend towards increased surveillance,” privacy hawk Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in an email to Politico.

Unfortunately despite public outcry, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has already sent the patent to Clearview and is just waiting for the firm to pay administrative fees to make it official. The technology is already used by top law enforcement bodies in the U.S. such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security with more bodies announcing a desire to also acquire the technology. Yikes!

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