Clearview set to patent biometric platform web crawling technology

It looks like Clearview AI is on the verge of patenting a technology that has been the key to the company’s controversy.

According to a Politico report, the company has received a “notice of permission” from the US Patent and Trademark Office regarding a patent application that covers its “methods of providing information about a person based on the facial recognition ”, with a central element being its automated web crawler designed to collect face images across the Internet, including from social media platforms. The notice means that the patent has indeed been approved, with Clearview only being required to pay an administrative fee to make it official.

The system described in the patent is what has caused so many problems for Clearview AI over the past two years. The company collected a huge amount of images of individuals, indiscriminately and without their consent, for use in a facial recognition system that it sold to the police and private companies. Law enforcement agencies have been using facial recognition technology for many years now, often sparking controversy in the process themselves, but Clearview’s system has heightened ethical concerns by submitting presumed innocent individuals by default. to this technology.

These concerns have led to outrage, investigations and fines around the world, especially in jurisdictions with strong privacy protections and regulatory oversight. And while Clearview pulled its technology out of some markets, it generally maintained its long-standing business model and even raised $ 30 million in a Series B funding round last summer. Company executives have argued that all images it collects are in the public domain, freely shared by users on the Internet.

The approval of a patent covering the most problematic components of its technology will not necessarily change anything in Clearview’s operations. But it seems to offer a kind validation of what Clearview is doing from an agency of the federal government.

Beyond that, the patent itself may hint at plans to expand the applications of Clearview’s biometric platform. As Politico notes, the patent application suggests that its facial recognition system could help “an individual to know more about a person they meet, for example in a business, dating or other relationship. “. If Clearview does not succumb to regulatory sanctions and the various other forms of pushback it has received regarding its law enforcement and retail services, it could break into new areas of business as well.

Sources: Politico, The Verge

December 6, 2021 – by Alex Perala

Rosemary S. Bishop