Last month, Clearview AI, a controversial face recognition company, announced that it had handed over its technology to the Ukrainian government.
The BBC was able to identify the living or dead by accessing evidence of how it was used in more than a thousand cases.
There are graphic illustrations in this story that may disturb some readers.
The body was found in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. The BBC looked at photos of the remains, but the circumstances of the death were unknown.
There is clear evidence of a head injury. The person also had a tattoo on his left shoulder.
The Ukrainian authorities did not know who the victim was, so they decided to resort to an avant-garde system: Facial recognition using artificial intelligence.
Clearview AI’s face recognition system is one of the most popular and controversial in the world.
The company has collected billions of photos from social media and sites like Facebook and TwitterIts chairman and founder, Hon Dunn-Dad, created a large database called “a face search engine”.
“It works like Google. But instead of placing strings of words or texts, the user puts a photo of a face, “explains Dun-That.
The company faced several legal challenges. Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter have all sent notices to Clearview to stop using images on their sites.. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has fined the company for failing to inform users about the collection of their personal photos.
The use of Clearview by the Ukrainian government has raised questions about the implications of bringing this powerful tool into a war.
Clearview is widely used, though controversial, by law enforcement in the United States. Ton- says 3,200 government agencies have purchased or tested the technology.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the company’s founder found another application for his controversial technology.
“We looked at pictures of prisoners of war, people fleeing, and we thought our technology would be useful in identifying and verifying people,” he says.
Ton- it made its search engine available to the Ukrainian government, and the offer was accepted.
Back to Kharkiv, authorities Took the picture Dead man’s face: Head straight, pitted eyes towards camera.
They then checked the image against the Clearview database. The search turned up several photos of someone who looked like a dead man.
A photo was taken on what appeared to be a hot day. The man was shirtless and had a tattoo on his left shoulder. The search was successful and the authorities already had the name.
Using facial recognition to identify the dead is not new Clearview is not the only site used for this purpose in Ukraine.
“We have been using this material for many years,” said Arik Doller, director of investigations at Bellingett, an organization that specializes in investigative journalism.
In 2019, Bellingade used facial recognition technology to help identify the Russian man who filmed the torture and murder of a prisoner in Syria.
The technology used to identify the face of the war in Ukraine was not the first war used.
But its use is wider than in previous conflicts. Dollar told the BBC he was using a face recognition site FindClone He says it was very helpful to identify Russian soldiers in and around Russia.
Like ClearView, FindClone is compatible with publicly available images on the Internet, including Russian social media pages.
You can even find people who do not have an account on these sites.
“They may not have a social media profile, but their wives or girlfriends are like that.. Or they may have lived in a small town with a large military base and had a lot of friends in their unit, ”Dollar explains.
This last point is important for understanding the power of face recognition technology.
Even if a person does not have a social media profile and thinks he or she has removed his or her image from the Internet, More can be found. You are already in the database by appearing in a photo uploaded by a friend or in the background of a random image on the internet.
Military or security personnel can monitor them if internet access is limited.
An accurate thing
Critics of face recognition technology point out that this is not always the case During times of war, mistakes can have catastrophic consequences.
Clearview was not used to identify dead bodies in Ukraine. The company also confirmed that it is being used by the Ukrainian government at checkpoints to help identify suspicious enemies.
Clearview showed an email to the BBC From the Ukrainian Agency Ensures that the computer is used to identify the living.
“This system has given us the opportunity to quickly verify the accuracy of the data of detained suspects,” says the email of the unidentified Ukrainian official.
“During the use of ClearView, more than 1,000 search queries were made for validation and identification,” the email states.
This has worried some researchers.
Connor Healy is a face recognition specialist at IPVM, a company that oversees security technology.
“Ukrainian forces are important Recognize that this is not a 100% accurate way to determine if someone is your friend or your adversarySays Healy.
“It should not be a do-or-die technique that can kill you, whether you pass or fail, you may be imprisoned or God forbid. It should never be used.”
Other researchers have issued even stronger warnings. Albert Foxconn of the Monitoring Group’s Monitoring Technology Oversight Program talks about the “created human rights catastrophe.”
“People will be wrongly arrested if they make a mistake in recognizing the face in peacetime. When mistakes are made in this technology where war takes place, innocent people are killed.Foxconn told Forbes magazine.
The BBC contacted the Ukrainian government to discuss the use of Clearview, but received no response.
Ton-That protects the accuracy of his company’s technology, which has been proven to be more than 99% accurate.
Much depends, however Image qualityWhether the position of the head or the face is covered, for example with a mask.
There is also the issue of privacy, which is a problem for Clearview in the US and Europe. The company pulls publicly available images from things like Facebook and Instagram to build its database.
But You have not asked social media companies or anyone else if they can collect these pictures.. If you are reading this article, you are definitely in the database, however you have not granted Clearview permission to use your image.
Last year, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office fined Clearview for failing to collect personal photos of them on social media sites.
Dunn-Tad acknowledges that the legitimacy of face recognition technology is still being debated, but claims the technology is “misunderstood” and believes it operates in accordance with the law.
However, facial recognition technology clearly has dystopian applications. The BBC reported in November last year China plans to use face recognition technology against journalists.
Ton-it says Clearview does not allow such searches. He promises that his company will not work with dictatorial governments and will not do so with Russia.
However, Clearview’s technology can be used in a military environment.
Last year, for example, the company signed up Agreement with the Pentagon Explore the possibility of incorporating their technology into augmented reality glasses.
And facial recognition Clearview is one of several companies with military contracts for the development of artificial intelligence.
Privacy lawyers express another concern. Face recognition technology will be useful to Ukrainian authorities in times of war. But will they send technology back to Clearview in peacetime?
“There is a big Techniques introduced during the war and examples of survival in peacetimeSays Healy.
“I hope that’s not the attitude they take.”
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