Ever announces shutdown a year after spinning off face biometrics into Paravision

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Following a biometrics controversy last year and after seven years of service, cloud photo storage app Ever is shutting down on August 31, 2020, claiming the business is “no longer sustainable” due to increasing competition from Google and Apple. All photos and videos will be deleted from the company servers on August 31, 2020.

In 2019, the company was under extensive scrutiny and criticism for using customer images to train Ever AI, its biometric facial recognition algorithm, which allegedly violated user privacy, NBC reported at the time.

In its early days, the company had military clients and attempted to sell the technology to law enforcement, never disclosing the business practice to customers using the cloud photo storage feature, writes TechCrunch, though it has since committed to not selling its facial recognition to police. At the time, Ever claimed it was not divulging any private or identifying customer information, following accusations by the ACLU that its business model was an “egregious violation of people’s privacy.” Other companies such as Amazon and Microsoft use public images in developing their facial recognition algorithms, which has led to its own controversy and legal action.

Ever AI was renamed Paravision soon after. Paravision’s biometric facial recognition technology had second-best accuracy in identifying people with occluded faces in the NIST Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) earlier this year, with error rates below three percent when the subject’s nose and mouth are covered.

The first page of the announcement that Ever is shutting down does not mention the facial recognition controversy and only refers to “increasing competition over the last several years from Apple and Google’s photo storage products (excellent products in their own right, and worth checking out as an alternative).” That page links to the company’s shutdown FAQ section, which does mention the biometric technology, noting photos and videos on the shuttered service “will never be used for any purpose.”

Paravision has been working on a toolset to extend the computer vision products beyond biometric facial recognition, to provide enhanced identification, safety and security in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the company said it was in the top five biometric companies in both the NIST FRVT 1:1 Verification and 1:N Identification reports.

This post was updated at 11:08am Eastern on August 26, 2020 to clarify that Paravision has not sold facial recognition to law enforcement and says it will not do so.

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