Facial recognition outfit Clearview AI — which collects billions of photos off the internet, and uses them for facial recognition technology — has been hacked, and its entire client list was exposed to malicious actors, according to CNN. The company said it fixed the problem that caused the data breach, and that safety was its top priority.
“Unfortunately, data breaches are a part of life. Our servers were never accessed,” said Clearview AI’s attorney Tor Ekeland, who added that the company is working to strengthen its security procedures.
Clearview AI said that a malicious actor “gained unauthorized access” to its list of customers, which include law enforcement agencies, police forces and financial institutions. It added that the perpetrator of the hacks didn’t gain access to search histories conducted by customers.
The company acquired its library of more than 3 billion photos from scraping the internet, including places like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Clearview AI’s practices were brought to light when The New York Times did an investigation into the company, and revealed that it was letting law enforcement use the photos to match unknown faces to images online. The company keeps the photos in its database, even after users delete them.
After that news was released, Google, Facebook and Twitter sent the company cease-and-desist letters. In New Jersey, lawmakers initiated a ban across the state on law enforcement using the company’s software.
Clearview AI Founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That has downplayed people’s concerns about the technology, saying that he intends to grow a “great American company” that has “the best of intentions.” He also said that he wasn’t going to sell his product to any other countries, including Russia, China and Iran, adding that the company’s technology is saving the lives of children, and helping authorities solve crimes.
Ton-That said he felt “honored” to be part of a broader conversation about privacy and facial recognition technology.