As the company confronts mounting criticism over its disturbing surveillance practices, its chief executive, Hoan Ton-That, is rolling out an audacious new defense: he claims that Clearview’s practices are protected by the first amendment. Ton-That’s upside-down views of civil liberties are, it seems, just as Orwellian as his company’s surveillance apparatus.
Fortunately, he is dead wrong. The constitution does not shield Clearview AI from accountability. We can, and must, pass laws to limit it and other facial recognition systems.
Facial recognition is extremely dangerous. It offers us the horrible choice between dysfunction and dystopia. On the one hand, studies have repeatedly shown that facial recognition can have serious accuracy problems, especially for people of color. Even when these systems do work, however, they give the government unprecedented power to catalog and track the activities and interactions of people everywhere. No wonder the technology is employed most frequently by authoritarian states like China, which reportedly uses facial recognition to spy on its persecuted Muslim minority.