From Kashmir Hill's 3-5-20 New York Times article entitled "Before Clearview Became a Police Tool, It Was a Secret Plaything of the Rich":
was unknown to the general public until this January, when The New York
Times reported that the secretive start-up had developed a breakthrough facial recognition system that
was in use by hundreds of law enforcement agencies. The company quickly
faced a backlash on multiple fronts. Facebook, Google and other tech
giants sent cease-and-desist letters. Lawsuits were filed in Illinois
and Virginia, and the attorney general of New Jersey issued a moratorium
against the app in that state.
In response to the criticism, Clearview published a “code of conduct,” emphasizing in a blog post that
its technology was “available only for law enforcement agencies and
select security professionals to use as an investigative tool.”
post added: “We recognize that powerful tools always have the potential
to be abused, regardless of who is using them, and we take the threat
very seriously. Accordingly, the Clearview app has built-in safeguards
to ensure these trained professionals only use it for its intended
purpose: to help identify the perpetrators and victims of crimes.”
Times, however, has identified multiple individuals with active access
to Clearview’s technology who are not law enforcement officials. And for
more than a year before the company became the subject of public
scrutiny, the app had been freely used in the wild by the company’s
investors, clients and friends.
with Clearview logins used facial recognition at parties, on dates and
at business gatherings, giving demonstrations of its power for fun or
using it to identify people whose names they didn’t know or couldn’t
“As part of the ordinary course of due diligence, we provided trial accounts to potential and current investors, and other strategic partners, so they could test the technology,” said Hoan Ton-That, the company’s co-founder.
Mr. [John] Catsimatidis first heard about Clearview from his friend Richard Schwartz, another founder of the company, who served as an aide to Rudolph W. Giuliani when Mr. Giuliani was mayor of New York. Last summer, Mr. Catsimatidis ran a trial project with Clearview at an East Side Gristedes market. The company used the system to identify known “shoplifters or people who had held up other stores,” Mr. Catsimatidis said.
“People were stealing our Häagen-Dazs. It was a big problem,” he said. He described Clearview as a “good system” that helped security personnel identify problem shoppers.
BuzzFeed News has reported that two other entities, a labor union and a real estate firm, also ran trials with a surveillance system developed by Clearview to flag individuals they deemed risky....