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LAPD Bans Facial Recognition because of Privacy Concerns!

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The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has banned the use of commercial facial-recognition services – citing “public trust” considerations.

The dept. has said ‘no’ to the Clearview AI platform, after an expose showing that officers had used it 475 times during a trial period alone.

This  comes after a report that showed that more than 25 employees of the dept. had performed 475 searches so far using the Clearview AI, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered facial-recognition platform.


“It has come to the Dept’s attention that a limited number of personnel have accessed commercial facial-recognition systems like Clearview for Dept. business,” Deputy Police Chief John McMahon wrote in a statement published by Buzzfeed. “Dept. personnel shall not use 3rd-party commercial facial recognition services nor conduct facial-recognition searches on behalf of outside agencies.”

“Clearview grabs photos from all over the place, & that, from a dept. standpoint, raises public-trust concerns,” McMahon furth added.

At issue is the fact that Clearview uses photos from social media & other publicly available sources, without consent, in violation of what some say are basic privacy rights. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) & Electronic Frontier Foundation have been loudly critical of facial recognition AI as a potential means of state surveillance.

Watchdog Groups

ACLU has taken Clearview AI to court over privacy issues. Specifically, its complaint alleges that the company’s massive database was amassed by collecting the biometric data of billions of people without their consent.

“Clearview AI has captured these faceprints in secret, without our knowledge, much less our consent, using everything from casual selfies to photos of birthday parties, college graduations, weddings & so much more,” ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler wrote about the case last May.


“Unbeknownst to the public, this company has offered up this massive faceprint database to private companies, police, federal agencies & wealthy individuals, allowing them to secretly track & target whomever they wished using face-recognition technology.”

The move by LAPD to ban the use of Clearview will no doubt be viewed as a victory by such groups in the long-simmering debate over facial recognition.

Clearview Responds

This puts Clearview in a difficult spot. On Jan. 27, the company issued “The Clearview AI Code of Conduct” stating that its search engines are “available only to law-enforcement agencies & select security professionals.”

It is unclear what happens if banning the service from being used in law enforcement becomes more widespread.

“The LAPD had a trial of Clearview AI as have many other law-enforcement agencies around the country,” Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That observed in a statement.

“Clearview AI is being used by over 2,400 law-enforcement agencies around the US to help solve crimes such as murder, robbery & crimes against children to keep our communities safe.”

Federal Law

Last Aug., a bill called the National Biometric Information Privacy Act was introduced in the Senate, which would extend those same biometric protections already passed in Illinois to the entire US.

Until the Federal laws catch up, tech giants Microsoft, Amazon & IBM pledged last June not to sell facial recognition to police depts.

National Law

“We will not sell facial-recognition tech to police in the US until there is a national law in place…We must pursue a national law to govern facial recognition grounded in the protection of human rights,” Microsoft President Brad Smith commented about the announcement.

Clearview CEO Hoan defended his company’s practices.

“Clearview AI is proud to be the leader in facial-recognition technology, with new features like our intake form, whereby each search is annotated with a case number & a crime type to ensure responsible use, facial-recognition training programs & strong auditing features.”

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