Clearview AI, a new facial recognition company that compiles billions of photos posted online and boasts that it works with more than 600 law enforcement agencies, told its clients that a hacker was able to steal its entire client list, according to a notification obtained by The Daily Beast.
The intruder managed to gain "unauthorized access" to Clearview AI's list of clients, the number of user accounts the customers had set up, as well as the number of searches the customer has conducted. However, the intruder was not able to obtain any of law-enforcement agencies' search histories.
The company said its servers were not breached in any way and there was "no compromise of Clearview's systems or network," and that the vulnerability that allowed the hacker to gain access has been fixed, the company said.
The company claims it can identify just about anyone with a single image thanks to its database of more than 3 billion photos the company has downloaded from the internet, including profile photos from popular social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
“Security is Clearview’s top priority,” Tor Ekeland, attorney for Clearview AI said in a statement to Fox News. “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.”
Law enforcement agencies have been using the company to identify suspects and said it's been accurate and helpful in arresting suspects. People first became aware of it after The New York Times published their investigation into Clearview AI earlier this year, prompting questions and controversy over the app's potential threat to privacy and vulnerability to hacking.
A class action lawsuit was filed in New York earlier this month against Clearview AI for illegally taking people's biometric information without their consent.
The company defended its practices, saying it only downloaded publicly accessible data and did not take any personal data, even though it's available on the internet.
Several major Silicon Valley companies including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Venmo and LinkedIn, have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Clearview AI, saying photos posted by users are not public domain and that scraping them from their websites violates their terms of service.
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