A company founded by former Israeli spies has reportedly been creating a massive facial recognition database using Facebook, YouTube and other online sites.
The database is owned by Israeli company Verint, according to Forbes.
The facial recognition service they provide is called Face-Int and was originally developed by a surveillance corporation called Terrogence, which Verint acquired in 2017.
Both Verint and Terrogence have long been vendors to the U.S. government, offering spy tech to such entities as the National Surveillance Agency and the U.S. Navy, among others, Forbes reported.
Terrogence’s website explains the company’s Face-Int’s data collecting process is aimed at finding terrorists and others believed to pose a threat to national security.
“The Face-Int database houses the profiles of thousands of suspects harvested from such online sources as YouTube, Facebook and open and closed forums all over the globe,” the website states. “It represents facial extractions from over 35,000 videos and photos retrieved online portraying such activities as terrorist training camps, motivational videos and actual terror attacks.”
Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, sees potential pitfalls for non-terrorists or criminals being caught up in the database.
“When you contemplate face recognition that’s everywhere, we have to think about what that’s going to mean for us,” he told Forbes.
Stanley continued, “If private companies are scraping photos and combining them with personal info in order to make judgments about people — are you a terrorist, or how likely are you to be a shoplifter or anything in between — then it exposes everyone to the risk of being misidentified, or correctly identified and being misjudged.”
In a related technology matter, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled on Monday that a class action lawsuit against Facebook regarding the use of facial recognition could go forward.
CNN reported Facebook has used the tool since 2011 when it launched “Tag Suggestions,” which suggests who to tag in photos users upload.
The plaintiffs argue that Facebook gathered their biometric data without prior notice or consent.
A Facebook spokesperson stated the company believes the “case has no merit.”
The social media giant contends it has been upfront with users about how the tag suggestion feature works, and provides instructions on how to turn it off in its online Help Center.
A CBS poll conducted earlier this month found 63 percent of Facebook users believe their personal data is currently unsafe and possibly being given to people they do not choose.
Further, only 9 percent expressed “a lot” of confidence Facebook would protect their information going forward, while 30 percent had “some” confidence, and 61 percent reported having “not much/none.”
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