Kashmir Hill, writing for the NYT, describes Clearview’s facial recognition app as follows:
Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.
His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.
The following is my guess at how this application works. It scours social media for faces associated with names, such as your face on your Facebook page or tagged photos on Twitter and Instagram. It turns your face into a set of connecting vectors (lines with angles), and saves the vectorized representation of your face with your name. It also does this with obscured images of your face, such as you wearing sunglasses and a hat or scarf over your face. These vector representations and associated names are saved in a database that can be searched very fast since only the vector representations have to be compared, not the images themselves.
This application was created by a Trump supporter and sponsored by Peter Thiel, a “libertarian” who seems to be the man behind many innovations in tyranny such as Palantir. The rest of Silicon Valley is up-in-arms about this latest intrusion into our privacy, but I suspect this is only because Thiel is behind it and Thiel is in the opposing tribe. Twitter and most of these social media platforms likely have big contracts with the government to help 3-letter agencies spy on you for your “safety.”
Personally, I don’t feel like I’m getting any safer. Dope fiends, transnational gangs, cartels seem to be getting bolder and bolder with their attacks on police and citizens. These criminal elements seem to live in relative freedom because they just don’t care what the law says and no one is going to prosecute them anyway. Even when they’re prosecuted, they’ll be let out soon either because the jails are deemed too full or a higher court overturns their conviction. Obviously, it’s long past time for reforms.