CLEARVIEW was unknown to the general public until this January The New York Times reported the secretive start-up had developed a breakthrough facial recognition system that was in use by hundreds of law enforcement agencies.

The company quickly faced a backlash on multiple fronts. Facebook, Google and other tech giants sent cease-and-desist letters. Lawsuits were filed in Illinois and Virginia, and the attorney general of New Jersey issued a moratorium against the app in the state.

ONE Tuesday night in October 2018, John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner Gristedes grocery store chain, was having dinner at Cipriani, an upscale Italian restaurant in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, when his daughter, Andrea walked in.

After the couple sat down at another table, Mr. Catsmatidis asked a waiter to go over and take a photo.

Mr. Catsimatdis, then uploaded the picture to a facial recognition app, Clearview AI, on his phone. The start-up behind the app has a database of billions of photos, scraped from sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Within seconds, Mr. Catsimatidis was viewing a collection of photos of the mystery man, along with the web addresses where they had appeared. His daughter's date was a venture capitalist from San Francisco.

''I wanted to make sure he wasn't a charlatan,'' said Mr. Catsimatidis, who then texted the man's bio to his daughter.

Ms. Catsimatidis said she and her date has no idea how her father had identified him so quickly. ''I expect my dad to be able to do crazy things. He's very technologically savvy, Ms. Catsimatidis said. ''My date was very surprised.''

In response to the criticism, Clearview published a ''code of conduct,'' emphasizing in a blog post that its technology was ''only for law enforcement agencies and select security professionals to use as an investigative tool.''

The post added : '' We recognize that powerful tools always have the potential to be abused, regardless of who is using them, and we take the threat very seriously.

Accordingly, the Clearview app has built-in-safeguards to ensure these trained professionals only use it for its intended purpose : to help identify the perpetrators and and victims of crimes.''

The Times, however, has identified multiple individuals with active access to Clearview's technology who are not law enforcement officials.

And for more than a year before the company became the subject of public scrutiny, the app had been freely used in the wild by the company's investors, clients and friends.

Those with Clearview logins used facial recognition at parties, on dates and at business gatherings, giving demonstrations of its power for fun or using it to identify people whose names they don't know or couldn't recall.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on facial recognition technology, scope and publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Kashmir Hill.


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