Time Magazine Lauds Clearview AI Despite Its Sketchy Facial Recognition Tech

from the but why? dept

Time
Magazine released its inaugural list of the 100 Most Influential
Companies, featuring an array of large and small corporations that
“are helping to chart an
essential
path
forward.”
Disturbingly, among its choices of “disruptors” is
Clearview AI, the controversial facial recognition start-up known for
illicitly scraping Americans’ images and demographic
information from social media and selling the data to law
enforcement. By celebrating a company that engages in illegal mass
surveillance, Time is complicit in the degradation of our privacy and
our civil liberties.

Even cursory
scrutiny by Time would have uncovered Clearview AI’s
disreputable practices. Perhaps Time was satisfied with the vague
explanation from Clearview AI’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That, that the
company is “working with law enforcement to balance privacy and
security.” But it’s hard to understand why, after
substantial
reporting
by other members of the media, Time chose to
accept Ton-That’s word when there is conclusive evidence that
Clearview AI continues to violate civil liberties by supplying law
enforcement agencies, private banks and sports teams with billions of
illegally collected images.

Widespread concern
about facial recognition technology’s threats
to civil liberties and its propensity for inaccuracy and racial bias
fueled the public outcry that ensued after the New York Times first
broke news about Clearview AI. Amid
calls from civil rights advocates for lawmakers to ban the use of
facial recognition technology, members
of Congress
questioned Clearview AI about its technology and its potential for
abuse against First Amendment-protected activity. Since then, a
growing list
of U.S. cities
have
banned police use of the technology.

Despite
the bans and lawsuits, both locally
and internationally,
against Clearview AI, the company’s indiscriminate collection
of Americans’ personal data without specific links to
criminality continues unabated. Clearview
AI’s troubling history and ongoing illegal activity should have
dissuaded Time from elevating it in the public sphere. Yet the outlet
only vaguely summarizes serious concerns about Clearview AI in its
profile, mentioning briefly that “civil rights advocates fear
abuses” of its technology despite reports of both the company
and its clients misleading
the public. Without evidence, Time also credits Clearview AI for assisting in the arrest of individuals connected to the breach of the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, while sweeping aside Clearview AI?s ties to misinformation.

Clearview
AI’s secretive practices that Time lauds as “influential”
and “disruptive” represent a dangerous disregard for our
social norms and expectations of privacy. We have come to expect to
certain tradeoffs with technology providers: we share some
demographic information in exchange for the ease, convenience and
connectivity their products bring to our daily lives. However, any
marginal benefits of Clearview AI do not hold up against its
significant potential for harm, and Time should have acknowledged
that. The company’s technology paves the way to a dystopian
future devoid of privacy and anonymity, both online and offline.
Clearview AI is creating an environment where anyone – an ICE agent,
a stalker or an individual bad actor within government – can
take a photo of an individual anywhere and automatically pull up that
person’s Instagram, TikTok, blog, or other personal information
without their knowledge or consent.

It
is a future civil society advocates have long warned about and will
continue to fight against. Time should acknowledge these warnings in
its report, especially since its readers are among Clearview AI’s
targets. As an iconic publication that has been a part of America’s
media and social landscape for almost 100 years, Time has effectively
chronicled the struggle for civil liberties over the decades. It is a
disgrace that when it came to covering today’s most influential
companies, Time instead chose to endorse a company that is
distinguished only for its unrelenting commitment to destroying those
same liberties.

Freddy
Martinez is a policy analyst at Open The Government.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: clearview

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