Clarifai OkCupid facial dataset sharing

Occurred: July 2019

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Clarifai is a US-based company founded in 2013 that specialises in computer vision applications. 

OkCupid user photographs

In July 2019, the New York Times published a story alleging that in 2014 dating site OkCupid had provided Clarifai with personal photographs of its users to build its facial recognition technology, and that it had done so without the knowledge or consent of its users. The article also asserted that an OkCupid founder who was also a Clarifai investor had supplied the photographs.

The revelation resulted in an outcry from civil rights and privacy advocates, and a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into the deal. In July 2022, Reuters reported that OkCupid owner had been actively styming the FTC's enquiries using a variety of legal manoeuvres.

The NYT story also resulted in a class action lawsuit accusing Clarifai of surreptitously violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by failing to inform OKCupid users about the use of their pictures and getting their written consent.

Project Maven hack

In June 2018, WIRED revealed that Clarifai had been hacked by people in Russia, thereby potentially exposing its work for Project Maven, a controversial US Defense department project that uses machine learning and AI to analyse drone surveillance imagery.

The news led Clarifai CEO Matt Zeiler to publicly confirm the hack and basic details of the company's relationship. Six months later, a group of Clarifai employees disseminated an open letter (pdf) expressing concerns at the company's involvement in automonous weaponry.

Operator: Clarifai
Developer: Clarifai; Match Group/OkCupid

Country: USA

Sector: Technology

Purpose: Train facial recognition systems

Technology: Dataset; Computer vision; Facial recognition; Machine learning; Neural network
Issue: Privacy; Ethics

Transparency: Governance; Marketing; Privacy; Legal

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2023