Ukraine war Clearview AI facial recognition

March 2022

Ukraine's vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov has told Reuters that the country's defence ministry has started using Clearview AI's facial recognition technology to identify Russian soldiers, prisoners of war, and undercover saboteurs.

The country is also using Clearview AI's system to 'dispel the myth of a 'special operation' in which there are 'no conscripts’ and ‘no one dies,'' according to a message posted on Telegram by Federov noted by Forbes cybersecurity writer Thomas Brewster.

According to Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That, the company boasts over 10 billion users’ faces in its database, including 2 billion from top Russian social network Vkontakte. Clearview controversially scrapes images from public news sites, mugshot sites, and social media.

Accuracy concerns

Ukraine's willingness to use Clearview AI flies in the face of the whiff of controversies that swirled round the company since its opaque data practices were exposed early 2020 by the New York Times.

Despite broad support for Ukraine, human and civil rights experts are concerned about what happens if a person is wrongly identified, arrested or worse should Clearview's system make a mistake.

In theory, mistakes are more likely given it will have to handle war-scarred faces. MailOnline cites a 2019 US Department of Energy study that concluded that facial decomposition considerably reduced the technology's effectiveness, though a 2021 conference paper was more promising.

Clearview had offered Ukraine its technology for free. The company says it has not offered its system to Russia.

Ukraine has been collecting the names of Russian soldiers killed or captured in the Russian-Ukrainian war in its 'Look for Your Own' (Ishchi svoikh) database since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Operator: Ministry of Defenсe of Ukraine
Developer:
Clearview AI
Country:
Ukraine
Sector:
Govt - defence
Purpose:
Identify combatants
Technology:
Facial recognition
Issue:
Accuracy/reliability; Dual/multi-use; Ethics
Opacity:
Governance; Black box