Tech giants Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber have “expressed interest” in using technology from controversial facial recognition firm Clearview AI for identity verification, according to a statement from Clearview AI’s CEO Hoan Ton-That provided to Motherboard. All three of the companies denied the claim in statements to Motherboard.
The news signals how Clearview AI may expand its products beyond investigative tools for law enforcement. Previously the company explored partnerships with members of the private sector such as Macy’s and Walmart, before promising to cancel all contracts with private companies, Buzzfeed News previously reported. Now, the statement sent on Tuesday highlights the issue of the proliferation of facial recognition technology again.
“There are no current plans to work with the companies you mentioned. They are examples of the types of firms who have expressed interest in Clearview AI's facial recognition technology for the purposes of consent-based identity verification, since there are a lot of issues with crimes that happen on their platforms,” Ton-That’s statement read.
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Clearview AI maintains a database of images scraped from social media and other sources across the internet. When a user, ordinarily a law enforcement officer, uses the app to scan someone's face or upload a photo, the system then presents them with other photos Clearview AI has matched to that person, along with their social media profiles.
Companies and governments may sometimes use facial recognition tools in a slightly different way to verify someone’s identity. Up until recently, the IRS planned to use identity verification services from a company called ID.me, which used Amazon’s Rekognition facial recognition technology. The IRS scrapped the plan earlier this month after a widespread backlash.
Ashley Adams, a spokesperson at Lyft, told Motherboard in an email that “We are not aware of any conversations with Clearview AI and have no plans to work with them.”
Andrew Hasbun, head of safety communications at Uber, told Motherboard in an email that “We have no plans to partner with Clearview, and I’m not aware of Uber ever ‘expressing interest’ in a partnership.”
Bren Breit, public affairs at Airbnb, told Motherboard in an email that “Airbnb is committed to protecting the privacy of our global Host and guest community. We have never worked with Clearview, and we have no plans or interest in partnering with them in any way.”
Update: This piece has been updated to include statements from Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb.