Imagine what a stranger could do with all of your personal information including your name, address and other details, and all he or she needs to obtain that information is a picture of you.
A start-up called Clearview AI has released a facial recognition app that makes that possible and is employed by law enforcement agencies across the US, including the FBI, the New York Times reported last week.
How does it work?
The Clearview app, according to the report, works by comparing the image to a database of more than 3 billion pictures obtained from social media platforms and other websites like Facebook, Instagram, Venmo, YouTube, a process which may have violated websites' terms of service.
It then finds a match along with links to the platforms where the database photos originated from. This not only reveals the user's name but also other sensitive information such as address, phone number, and other details. The system is also capable of identifying photos of users who have their faces covered by masks, helmets or religious clothing like hijabs.
Used by law enforcement to solve crimes
Clearview has gone viral among police departments with more than 600 departments signing up for the facial recognition app. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are using the platform to learn more about suspects or persons of interest from their cases.
They have successfully used the app to solve several crimes including shoplifting, identify theft, credit card fraud, murder, and child sexual exploitation. In one instance, the Indiana State Police were able to solve a case within 20 minutes thanks to the facial recognition app.
Will it be available to the general public?
The Clearview app is not available to the general public currently, but only for police officers. Although the start-up claims that its technology is only intended for use by law enforcement and security personnel, police officers and investors believe that it will be more in public demand in the future.
Privacy advocates warn that if the app gets a public release, it can be misused by stalkers and criminals. The terrifying possibilities are endless in the hands of the regular folk who could use the app as a means to harass, stalk, and abuse.