• Hoan Ton-That, founder of facial recognition tech firm Clearview AI, previously connected to Trump world figures and online hate extremists, reports Buzzfeed News
• Chuck Johnson, Mike Cernovich, and Rudy Giuliani are among the linked figures named in Buzzfeed report
• NYPD disputes facial recognition firm Clearview AI's claim that it identified a terrorism suspect
Clearview AI is reported to have built a database of billions of photos that it says can reveal pretty much anyone's identity.
Twitter just told them to stop scraping photos, lawmakers are concerned about the implications, and now Buzzfeed News raises troubling questions about the company's past.
From the Buzzfeed report by by Ryan Mac, Caroline Haskins, and Logan McDonald:
Clearview AI, a facial recognition company that says it's amassed a database of billions of photos, has a fantastic selling point it offers up to police departments nationwide: It cracked a case of alleged terrorism in a New York City subway station last August in a matter of seconds. "How a Terrorism Suspect Was Instantly Identified With Clearview," read the subject line of a November email sent to law enforcement agencies across all 50 states through a crime alert service, suggesting its technology was integral to the arrest.
It's a compelling pitch that has helped rocket Clearview to partnerships with police departments across the country. But there's just one problem: The New York Police Department said that Clearview played no role in the case.
That's the first question. The NYPD says they're full of shit.
"The NYPD did not use Clearview technology to identify the suspect in the August 16th rice cooker incident," NYPD TOLD BuzzFeed News. "The NYPD identified the suspect using the Department's facial recognition practice where a still image from a surveillance video was compared to a pool of lawfully possessed arrest photos."
Here's the second problem.
Hacker and Clearview founder Ton-That is linked to various Trump allied far-right figures, this report states, naming Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cernovich, Chuck Johnson, Pax Dickinson, the details of which go back some years.
Here's what that swirl led to in 2016:
By the election, Ton-That was on the Trump train, attending an election night event where he was photographed with Johnson and his former business partner Pax Dickinson.
The following February, Smartcheckr LLC was registered in New York, with Ton-That telling the Times that he developed the image-scraping tools while Schwartz covered the operating costs. By August that year, they registered Clearview AI in Delaware, according to incorporation documents.
Read more at Buzzfeed News:
Clearview AI Says Its Facial Recognition Software Identified A Terrorism Suspect. The Cops Say That's Not True.
Our Cory Doctorow wrote about Clearview AI recently here at Boing Boing.
IMAGE, TOP: Courtesy Buzzfeed News, these Clearview marketing materials "were sent to the police department in Bradenton, Florida, which claim its technology was used in recognizing a suspect."