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Ukraine Begins Using Clearview AI Facial Recognition In Warfare

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has started to use Clearview AI’s facial recognition as part of their defense against the Russian invasion, after the US startup company offered them free access to the software.

Ukrainian access to the AI will allow their military to check peoples faces, allowing them to identify people of interest and Russian Assailants, combat misinformation and identify casualties, according to Clearview adviser and former diplomat under Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Lee Wolosky.

Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That sent a letter to Kyiv at the beginning of the conflict offering their support and use of the software. Russia was not offered the technology, with Clearview calling its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.

Credit: Reuters

Ton-That claimed to have over 2 billion photos from the Russian social media platform Vkontakte in the Clearview database, and a total of over 10 billion images.

He claimed that identifying the dead is much easier using his AI services over fingerprint matching, even with facial damage.

Research for the US Department of Energy however showed that body decomposition did indeed affect the AI’s results, while a paper from a 2021 conference stated that the AI’s effectiveness proved to be promising.

Furthermore, the Clearview founder pointed out that their technology would be helpful in reuniting families driven apart by the war, debunk false social media posts and identify Russian operatives. However, he also stated that the exact reason for the Ukrainian defense ministry using the technology is unclear.

Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That
Credit: CNN

Compared to the effectiveness of PimEyes, a image search engine that is publicly available and has been used to identify those in war photos, Clearview has a much more substantial database.

However, use of the technology in Ukraine is not without criticism. Some claim that the software could misidentify people on the battlefield and at checkpoints, resulting to unfair treatment and deaths of civilians, similar to the way in which unfair arrests have risen in numbers due to police use of the software.

Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project in New York said “We’re going to see well-intentioned technology backfiring and harming the very people it’s supposed to help”.

Similarly, Ton-That has stated that Clearview is not to be used as the only source of identification and that he would hate for it to be used in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Clearview has been in hot water before, with countries such as the UK and Australia deeming the AI’s methods to be illegal. They are also fighting lawsuits in the US over accusations of the company violating privacy rights in the way it collects data. Clearview argues that its method of collecting data is no different to Google.

Cahn maintains that while identifying the dead is the least dangerous way of deploying Clearview’s AI in Ukraine, he believes that “once you introduce these systems and the associated databases to a war zone, you have no control over how it will be used and misused.”


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