Clearview AI tops 40 billion reference images in facial recognition database
Clearview AI’s reference database for facial recognition searches has surpassed 40 billion images, double its volume of just 20 months ago.
The milestone was revealed in a Time article detailing the use of Clearview’s technology by the government and defense forces of Ukraine in its war with Russia. The article describes the use of Clearview’s facial recognition by 18 Ukrainian government agencies, and identification of more than 230,000 Russian soldiers. Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Leonid Tymchenko calls it Ukraine’s “secret weapon.”
When Clearview first made its facial recognition available to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense in March, 2022, the company’s database held 2 billion images culled from Russian social media. Weeks later, the company revealed it had crossed the 20 billion image mark.
Clearview engineer Terence discussed how the company keeps search times down with such a massive database in an interview with Biometric Update in June.
The images added to the biometric database have been collected mainly from the same sources, CEO Hoan Ton-That says, but with an increased focus on websites from Eastern Europe, including OK.ru.
Ton-That suggested in a presentation to investors that Clearview will eventually reach 100 billion images. He says the company will get there by continuing to collect images while it decreases its costs.
“Our cost to search and store 40B images is 36 percent less than our cost for 30B images,” he tells Biometric Update in an email. This was done with cutting edge technical improvements to our proprietary database technology that we have created ourselves, and other infrastructure improvements.”
The main advantage of the increase is the increased ability to return a true positive match, which is the company’s top priority.
“This hit rate continues to improve as we add more photos to the database,” Ton-That says. “Every photo in the dataset is a potential clue that could save a life, provide justice to an innocent victim, prevent a wrongful identification, or exonerate an innocent person.”
The increased database size also contributes to training the algorithm for higher accuracy, he notes.
The Times quotes a human rights lawyer from the Digital Security Lab Ukraine expressing concern that the government will continue to use Clearview after the war’s conclusion, and calls Ukraine’s privacy laws “outdated.” Ton-That also sees a post-conflict role for his company in Ukraine.
“Even after the war, Ukraine is going to have security needs at their checkpoints, their war crime investigations will continue, there will be a strong need for public safety, solving crime, and tackling corruption — all for which Clearview AI plays an essential role in helping with.”
Clearview is considering opening an office in Ukraine in the future.