In March, a BuzzFeed News investigation based on Clearview AI’s own internal data showed how the New York–based startup distributed its facial recognition tool, by marketing free trials for its mobile app or desktop software, to thousands of officers and employees at more than 1,800 US taxpayer-funded entities. Clearview claims its software is more accurate than other facial recognition technologies because it is trained on a database of more than 3 billion images scraped from websites and social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
That data shows that police departments, prosecutors’ offices, universities, and interior ministries from around the world ran nearly 14,000 searches with Clearview AI’s software. At many law enforcement agencies from Canada to Finland, officers used the software without their higher-ups’ knowledge or permission. After receiving questions from BuzzFeed News, some organizations admitted that the technology had been used without leadership oversight.