Kashmir Hill reporting for The New York Times: A mysterious company that has licensed its powerful facial recognition technology to hundreds of law enforcement agencies is facing attacks from Capitol Hill and from at least one Silicon Valley giant.
Twitter sent a letter this week to the small start-up company, Clearview AI, demanding that it stop taking photos and any other data from the social media website “for any reason” and delete any data that it previously collected, a Twitter spokeswoman said. The cease-and-desist letter, sent on Tuesday, accused Clearview of violating Twitter’s policies.
The New York Times reported last week that Clearview had amassed a database of more than three billion photos from social media sites — including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Venmo — and elsewhere on the internet. The vast database powers an app that can match people to their online photos and link back to the sites the images came from. The app is used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies, ranging from local police departments to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security. Law enforcement officials told The Times that the app had helped them identify suspects in many criminal cases. It’s unclear what social media sites can do to force Clearview to remove images from its database. “In the past, companies have sued websites that scrape information, accusing them of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an anti-hacking law,” notes the NYT. “But in September, a federal appeals court in California ruled against LinkedIn in such a case, establishing a precedent that the scraping of public data most likely doesn’t violate the law.”
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