Clearview AI, a contentious face recognition business, revealed last month that it had donated its technology to the Ukrainian government.
The BBC has provided proof of how it is being used to identify both the living and the dead in over a thousand cases.
On the floor, a guy lays unmoving, his head inclined down. Apart from a pair of Calvin Klein boxers, he is completely nude. His eyes are surrounded by bruises that appear to be bruising.
The corpse was discovered among the debris of war in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.
The BBC has seen photos from the site but has no information about the circumstances surrounding his death. There is no denying that there is been a head injury. On his left shoulder, he also had a tattoo.
Because Ukrainian officials had no idea who the individual was, they opted to use a cutting-edge method: artificial intelligence-assisted face recognition.
Clearview is the most well-known and controversial face recognition technology in the world.
The business gathered billions of photographs from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to construct a massive database of “facial search engines,” as its CEO and founder Hoan Ton-That puts it.
“It operates in a similar way to Google. Instead of a string of words or text, the user enters a photograph of a face “Mr Ton-That explains.
The corporation has been hit by a slew of legal issues. Clearview has received cease-and-desist letters from Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Twitter, asking them to stop utilising their images. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom even penalised the corporation for failing to notify individuals that it was collecting their images.
Now, the Ukrainian government’s deployment of it has sparked concerns about the consequences of incorporating such a sophisticated technology into a live conflict.
Clearview is widely employed by police enforcement in the United States, yet it is polarising. According to Ton-That, 3,200 government entities have purchased or tested the technology.
Clearview’s founder envisioned a new use for the technology after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.
“We saw photographs of individuals who were prisoners of war and escaping situations, and it got us thinking that this would be a technology that might be used for identification and verification,” he adds.
He soon proposed the technique to the Ukrainian government, which was accepted.
Authorities in Kharkiv captured a photograph of the deceased man’s face, with his head raised high and his sunken eyes looking at the camera.
They took a photo and uploaded it to Clearview’s database. The search yielded many images of someone who resembled the deceased man.
One photograph was shot on what appears to be a scorching day. The dude wore no shirt. On his left shoulder, he had a tattoo.
The style was similar. They were given a name.
Face recognition is not a novel technique for identifying the deceased, and Clearview is not the only platform being utilised in Ukraine to do so.
“We have been utilising this stuff for years,” Aric Toler, research director of Bellingcat, an investigative journalism organisation, explains.
In 2019, Bellingcat utilised face recognition technology to assist identify a Russian man who had videotaped a Syrian prisoner being tortured and killed. This is not the first time that face recognition has fought a battle.
However, its application in Ukraine is more extensive than in any prior battle. In Russia, Mr Toler says he utilises the face recognition tool FindClone, which he says has been particularly useful in identifying fallen Russian troops.
The Ukrainian government, according to Clearview, is using their technology at checkpoints to assist identify hostile suspects (file picture)
FindClone, like Clearview, searches the internet for publicly available pictures, including Russian social media pages.