With proper use, facial recognition AI benefits all

Since last month’s New York Times story on Clearview AI, the start-up that helps law enforcement identify unknown people based on their online images, the question of facial recognition benefits (particularly when used by law enforcement) has been the topic of renewed discussion among lawmakerscivil liberty groups and others, who have raised concerns regarding the privacy implications of a tool that can allow law enforcement to identify law-abiding citizens and find out where they live and work by taking their picture on the street. As a leader in artificial intelligence, multiple media outlets have reached out to Veritone seeking our perspective on this issue, which I summarize in this piece.

The problem with Clearview AI is not the use of facial recognition technology itself, but rather in the way Clearview AI has compiled its database of faces and some of the ways in which such a database could be used. Most use cases for facial recognition technology today have nothing to do with automated surveillance of the public or identification of individuals not involved in crimes, two of the areas of concern often raised by critics. As I told TechRepublic, there are dozens of use cases for facial recognition today that benefit society and make our communities safer. For example, AI can help law enforcement sift through massive amounts of data to find human trafficking victims in online ads, assist in the identification of terrorists and help to dismantle organized criminal networks

Despite the unfortunate firestorm Clearview AI has caused, to overly regulate or ban facial recognition AI outright would be a mistake, especially in cases where the technology is only introducing efficiencies in processes that humans conduct manually. Ultimately, technology is a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or bad purposes — the key is to regulate potentially bad uses of the tool while retaining the good uses.  I believe that it is possible for AI facial recognition benefits to be used in a way that solves problems and benefits society at large, while also protecting our privacy and security. 

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