Clearview AI may be controversial but it’s not the first business to identify you from your online pics
Way back in May 2011, Eric Schmidt, who was then the executive chairman of Google, said that the rapid development of facial recognition technology had been one of the things that had surprised him most in a long career as a computer scientist. But its “surprising accuracy” was “very concerning”. Questioned about this, he said that a database using facial recognition technology was unlikely to be a service that the company would create, but went on to say that “some company … is going to cross that line”.
As it happens, Dr Schmidt was being economical with the actualité, as the MP Alan Clark used to say. He must surely have known that a few months earlier Facebook had announced that it was using facial recognition in the US to suggest names while tagging photos. And some time after Schmidt spoke, Google itself launched a facial recognition feature in its own ill-fated social network, Google+. It was called Find My Face and it scanned photos from users and their friends to identify recognisable faces. Four years later, as the tech analyst Ben Thompson points out, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud released face-recognition APIs, followed by Amazon Web Services with its Rekognition service in 2016. So it turns out that lots of companies – including Schmidt’s own – had crossed the facial recognition red line.
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