Clearview AI’s client list was stolen. Could its massive face database be next?

The controversial artificial intelligence company Clearview AI has experienced a breach that saw the theft of its entire customer list, which is made up of various law enforcement agencies. 

An intruder was able to gain “unauthorized access” to Clearview’s full customer list, the Daily Beast first reported on Wednesday. Clearview AI says that it currently only has contracts with law enforcement agencies and select security professionals. 

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“Security is Clearview’s top priority,” said Tor Ekeland, an attorney for Clearview AI, in a statement. “Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century. Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw, and continue to work to strengthen our security.”

The hacker was reportedly able only to gain access to the company’s customer list, as well as the number of customer’s user accounts and the number of searches a customer conducted. 

A privacy advocate previously told Digital Trends that if Clearview’s data ever got into the wrong hands, the software could be utilized to harass and stalk almost anyone. So while this breach only included what customers the company has, it’s troubling to know that the data was accessed so easily and that it could happen in the future, potentially with even more sensitive information. 

Clearview works by scraping publicly available data from popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Venmo, and others. Law enforcement uses its technology to identify criminal suspects, as well as victims. 

The company got into hot water last month when a New York Times article looked into the company’s advanced and controversial facial-recognition technology. 

Since then, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have sent cease-and-desist letters to Clearview, and Facebook is reviewing Clearview’s practices as well. 

Clearview AI’s facial-recognition technology is so advanced that it could match your name and address from a simple photo of your face, which many say poses a problem since stalkers would greatly benefit from this kind of software.

Facial-recognition software is nothing new, and many companies have begun to use it in a variety of ways. Amazon’s facial-recognition software can even detect emotions on people’s faces, including fear. 

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