Clearview AI shares more details on its AR facial recognition glasses in new book
Clearview AI will integrate its facial recognition technology into a US$999 pair of augmented reality glasses, made by U.S. company Vuzix. The AR glasses, originally announced in February 2022, are connected to Clearview AI’s app and a database of 30 billion faces. This allows the wearer to identify someone up to 10 feet away, a new book on one of the world’s most well-known facial recognition companies reveals.
Written by New York Times tech reporter Kashmir Hill, the book tracks the rise of Clearview AI helmed by Australian computer engineer Hoan Ton-That and Richard Schwartz, a former Rudy Giuliani advisor. The book retells the story of how the firm earned its controversial reputation by pitching its product to businesses and law enforcement agencies around the world.
In an adapted excerpt published this week by the New York Times, Hill describes how consumer tech companies such as Google and Facebook were reluctant to deploy face biometrics, limiting its use to what they considered relatively benign applications: Unlocking smartphones, tagging friends on social media and organizing digital photos according to faces.
Big companies were eager to avoid scenarios such as the 2015 lawsuit against Facebook’s use of facial recognition to tag friends in photos that ultimately cost the company $650 million. But over the past several years, upcoming challengers such as Clearview AI and PimEyes have managed to use open-source resources to build their own products and unleash their technology into the world, bringing facial recognition as well as its privacy risks closer to ubiquity.
“What these start-ups had done wasn’t a technological breakthrough; it was an ethical one,” writes Hill. “Tech giants had developed the ability to recognize unknown people’s faces years earlier, but had chosen to hold the technology back, deciding that the most extreme version — putting a name to a stranger’s face — was too dangerous to make widely available.”
Clearview does not sell its technology to the public, and the article recounts how Ton-That dissuaded Hill from taking them onto a city street during a demonstration.
The book also delves into Clearview AI’s connections to controversial figures such as Silicon Valley financier Peter Thiel and alt-right political activist Charles C. Johnson. It also delves into the dangers of losing privacy thanks to widespread facial recognition use.
The book is set to be published on September 19, 2023.