Social Media Scraping AI Identification Platform Popular Among US Law Enforcement

You may remember an article we did a few months ago about a company that was taking pictures of user accounts from social media and then using that data to train a facial recognition artificial intelligence (AI) platform.

a group of people standing around a video screen display
A group of people standing around a video screen display. Photo by Maxim Hopman

The company, Clearview AI, made headlines today when it announced that 2,400 law enforcement agencies in the United States have used its facial recognition software to conduct searches.

How many quests you may ask?

About 1 million according to the company’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That.

This pride comes in the face of regulatory fines and public criticism of the company for its approach to developing its database.

The company’s CEO disclosed this information to BBC UK in an interview, Gizmodo reports. The claim has renewed the debate about the need for comprehensive data protection legislation.

“It’s terrible that a company can steal billions of our photos, but even worse that the police are paying them for that data. Police should investigate Clearview AI for theft, not award contracts. This kind of surveillance capitalism chills democracy and puts us all at risk,” said Project Executive Director of Surveillance Technologies Albert Fox Cahn.

The report further clarifies that the company is actually moving away from private apps for its technology and, instead, seems to be focusing more on public apps like with the police and other government agencies. A law enforcement official quoted by Gizmodo said the squad does not make arrests based on algorithms, but that does little to assuage concerns around privacy and individual rights.

And while there are currently no comprehensive regulations on personal data, that is subject to change.


Yes, not only are we seeing personal data stolen to help build artificial intelligence platforms, but we’re also seeing the work of professional content creators stolen for the same purpose. Usually, when you’re chasing someone’s money, that’s when things get real. You may remember our article on the trillion dollar lawsuit we published recently to give you some context.

What do you think about artificial intelligence companies removing social media images from the Internet? Let us know in the comments below.

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