Not All Facial Recognition Companies Are Created Equal

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted February 4, 2021

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Capitol Hill riots and the role facial recognition technology played in identifying perpetrators.

You see, the FBI collected more than 100,000 digital images from the January 6 insurrection, and they've played a vital part in the more than 70 arrests that have since taken place.

That's because local police departments and citizen sleuths have been able use advanced AI to compare those pictures with vast banks of photos pilfered from the internet. 

For example, Larry Brock, who stormed the Capitol with a flak jacket, helmet, and zip-tie handcuffs, was identified because his photo turned up on an obscure website called Alumnius.net.

One of the most prominent facial recognition companies being deployed in this capacity has been Clearview AI. 

Clearview is a widely known name in the facial recognition industry, and it helped the Miami police force identify 13 potential rioters from more than 1,000 miles away. 

But its practices are suspect.

Clearview uses a database of billions of photographs that it's scraped from public social media pages without the knowledge or consent of the users.

That means if your Facebook or Instagram page isn't privately locked, they've probably scooped up your photos. 

“We have over 3 billion photos that we indexed from the public internet, like Google for faces,” CEO Hoan Ton-That bragged to IEEE Spectrum. “Use our system, and in about a second it might point to someone’s Instagram page.” 

It also provides access to a smartphone app that allows clients to upload a photo of an unknown person and instantly receive a set of matching photos.

Well, as it turns out, not everyone is cool with that. 

And yesterday, Canadian authorities ruled that Clearview's technology is, in fact, illegal. 

A joint investigation of privacy authorities led by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada determined that the "scraping of billions of images of people from across the internet represented mass surveillance" and infringes on the privacy rights of Canadians.

“It is completely unacceptable for millions of people who will never be implicated in any crime to find themselves continually in a police lineup,” Canadian Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a statement.

That's bad enough. But making matters worse is that this will likely bolster other legal challenges to Clearview's technology, such as a pending lawsuit brought against Clearview by the ACLU in the state of Illinois. 

Of course, that doesn't mean the technology won't continue to gain momentum. And it certainly doesn't mean all facial recognition companies are as dubious or legally vulnerable as Clearview.

For example, I recently recommended a facial recognition company that's far more legitimate, far more versatile, and far more profitable than Clearview will ever be.

In fact, it's actually based in Canada, where it just signed a brand-new deal to provide public safety and security services for retail outlets in British Columbia.

So while Canadian authorities are clearly wary of facial recognition technology, they aren't entirely opposed to it either. 

And how could they be when its benefits are so tangible?

In addition to providing security for retail outlets, the company I've found has deployed its products to high-crime hot spots throughout Mexico and Latin America.

It's also already been deployed at airports, concerts, stadiums, and other major events — including the Super Bowl — to thwart potential terror attacks.

Better still, new capabilities were recently added to help enforce social distancing measures and identify potential carriers of the coronavirus. 

That means this company is guarding against biological threats as well as criminals and terrorists.

And its stock has already tripled since I recommended it to Wall Street's Proving Ground subscribers back in November. 

I strongly encourage you to check out my full report here.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of The Wealth Warrior, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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