The Black Mirror of Clearview AI

If Clearview is normalized, we're not who we think (or hope) we are.

An abstract image of many faces

Before the NYT broke the story on Clearview AI, facial recognition was seen by most people as a natural extension of tech in general. It added convenience or it was used by trusted parties to keep us safer.

If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear. But this could not be more wrong.

Facial recognition has been creeping up on us for a while now. We love facial recognition on our phones but our phone is a database of one. We’ve supplied our faces to government for good use - driver’s licenses, passports and Global Entry are obvious examples. But our faces-as-data have bled from this narrow, context-dependent use and have been repurposed for use in other databases where facial recognition technology is routinely deployed.

Facial recognition is a unique technology. There is no other technology that so fundamentally breaks the concept of anonymity in a public space. In public, we take for granted that we have a right to choose who to introduce ourselves to. Others around us have limited capacity to perceive, characterize and remember us. Facial recognition destroys the obscurity we rely on. When we lose obscurity we lose our choices about how much of ourselves to show to others.

Nothing (outside of Yandex, a Russian image search engine) comes even close to Clearview AI. It’s a search engine for faces. And the company poses a material threat to who we are, who we think we are and who we hope to be. All the while, the company asks us to “just trust them.” “Trust” is…

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