The U.S. Provides Facial Recognition Technology to Help Ukraine in War

08 Apr 2022

Amidst the global tension of the Russia-Ukraine war, many countries have been trying to help Ukraine in resisting the Russian attacks. A U.S.-based company, Clearview AI, stepped in to give Ukraine free and unlimited access to its artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition technology.

The strong face search engine can evaluate if an individual is of the Russian military or a Ukrainian. This would prove beneficial for Ukrainian authorities to identify Russians at checkpoints or borders as per the set parameters. On 12th March, Ukrainians started using facial recognition technology to recognize Russian assailants, combat misinformation, and identify the deceased.  

Ukraine has been using different techniques and war methods to sustain itself in the ongoing war. From the President and civilians marching to the border to using consumer drones and biometric systems for surveillance and warfare activities, Ukraine is doing everything possible to safeguard itself.  

Biometric-based systems such as facial recognition have caught the attention of nations and the global industrial ecosystem. They are regarded as a technology that no company or government can afford to ignore.

The use of biometric authentication and identification across various industries is majorly due to a higher demand for enhanced safety and security of personnel.

Technological Help Offered to Ukraine

Many Western companies have offered to help Ukraine by contributing internet hardware, cybersecurity tools, and other forms of assistance. Ukraine's Ministry of Digital Transformation representative stated that the country had examined offers from various U.S.-based AI firms providing technological assistance. One such company helping Ukraine is Clearview AI. Clearview AI has described its efforts in Ukraine as a "special mission."

Benefits of Using Facial Recognition Technology in Ukraine

The founder of Clearview AI claimed that his company had access to over two billion images from the Russian social media service VKontakte, out of a total database of over 10 billion photos.

Therefore, the database will be beneficial to assist Ukraine in identifying the dead more quickly than following the procedure of matching fingerprints. The technology works even if there is face damage.

Clearview AI's technology might be used to reconcile refugees with their families, detect Russian spies, and assist the government in debunking bogus war-related social media posts.

The actual objective of Ukraine's Defense Ministry for deploying the technology is unknown. However, Clearview AI's facial recognition technology will be deployed in other sectors of Ukraine's administration in the days ahead, said Clearview AI's Chief Executive Ton-That.

The Clearview AI Controversy

Clearview AI's dataset is more extensive than PimEyes, a publicly available image search engine that has been used to identify individuals in combat photos.

Face recognition, according to one critic, might lead to people being misidentified at checkpoints and during battle. Moreover, according to experts, an incorrect recognition by the technology could result in human deaths.

If a person dies due to technical faults, it raises questions according to the legal criteria established for humanitarian treatment in times of war by the Geneva Conventions. Therefore, Clearview AI should not be used as the sole means of identifying any individual.

In Europe, a collection of digital rights organizations filed complaints with data protection authorities in Austria, France, Italy, Greece, and the U.K., alleging infringement of the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union (GDPR).

In November 2021, the U.K. regulatory agency threatened Clearview AI with a fine and was forced to stop processing citizens' data. In  December, France ordered Clearview AI to stop processing data from online portals and provided two months to erase any data it possessed. Australia has announced the company's practices to be illegal.

In March 2022, Italy's Data Protection Agency imposed a 22 million dollars fine on Clearview AI for violating the GDPR, ordering the company to destroy all data on Italians and prohibiting it from processing data in the future.

Clearview describes its AI as a post-event investigation tool, not a surveillance system. However, there are legitimate fears that such a technology will compromise internet users' privacy.

Clearview AI received cease and desist notices from Twitter, Google, and  Facebook (now Meta) when it was discovered that the company was using the data from these websites to collect photos of people for biometric identification without their knowledge and consent.

In conclusion, various foreign nations are trying to put a helping foot forward in Ukraine directly or indirectly. The technological importance in this war is proving to be crucial. The technologies such as biometric identification or consumer drones that were least expected to be used in war are currently being used innovatively.


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