Ukraine is using all possible means to combat the Russian invasion. The most recent is related to facial recognition. According to Reuters, the Eastern European country would be using Clearview AI technology to identify the dead and the invading soldiers.
Volodymyr Zelensky's government received free access to the Clearview AI database, which has billions of faces. The American technology company was one of many companies that responded to Ukraine's call for help, and it is becoming a great ally thanks to its technology.
In a letter sent by Hoan Ton-That, president of Clearview, the company made a powerful face search engine available to Ukraine. According to Ton-That, its technology would facilitate the task of identifying victims, regardless of whether they have suffered facial damage
Although Clearview's search engine would save the Ukrainian government time, the key point of facial recognition is related to the invader. The database includes faces of potential enemies, either soldiers or saboteurs posing as Ukrainians.
Ukraine would use millions of photos of VK, the Russian Facebook
In the letter sent to the Ministry of Defence, Clearview mentions that its search engine has more than 10 billion photographs. The icing on the cake is that a fifth of them were extracted from VK, the Russian Facebook.
The Ukrainian army would use facial recognition to identify Russians at checkpoints. One of the tactics used by Russia since the beginning of the war is to send spoilers who dress as locals to assassinate Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
A few days ago, Viktor Chelovan, commander of Ukraine's special forces, reported that Russian paratroopers landed in several towns near kyiv. Saboteurs descend from the forest, enter apartments to change clothes and then kill locals or soldiers at checkpoints.
There are also reports of Russians infiltrating bomb shelters to hide weapons and ammunition in toys and other valuables. Although the president and the population are aware of these tactics, the Ministry of Defense is looking for a new strategy to contain the enemy using facial recognition.
Facial recognition is very dangerous in a war
While the offer is tempting, using Clearview AI's facial recognition would be counterproductive in armed conflict. “Once you bring these systems and associated databases into a war zone, you don't have control over how it will be used,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) in New York.
The Achilles heel of facial recognition has been documented numerous times. The systems have multiple flaws when used on women or minorities. An identification error could lead to unjustified arrests or the death of civilians at a checkpoint in Ukraine.
Clearview AI has nurtured its base of 10 billion images using sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or VK itself. The company sells its technology to police agencies in the United States and its president claims that having such a large base makes its facial recognition more accurate.
Unlike other privacy advocates, Clearview AI doesn't mind criticism. The company bases its artificial intelligence technology on documents published by Google and Facebook. According to its president, the algorithm is capable of identifying faces in all kinds of light conditions and regardless of whether the image is from 20 years ago.
Ukraine using this technology in the war against Russia would set a precedent. Clearview AI would take advantage of desperation to expand its influence (and contracts) beyond US federal agencies.