Ukraine given access to Clearview AI's controversial facial recognition tech

A finger about to press the Clearview AI App on a device
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Clearview AI is providing Ukraine’s defence ministry with free access to its facial recognition technology, the company has confirmed.

The facial recognition software is being used to identify Russian soldiers, tackle misinformation, reunite displaced families, and identify the deceased - as other forms of identification, including fingerprint scanning, become increasingly challenging due to heavy bombardment.

Initially reported by Reuters, the New York-based company has since confirmed to IT Pro that "Clearview AI has provided it's groundbreaking facial recognition technology to Ukrainian officials for their use during the crisis they are facing".

It comes after CEO and co-founder Hoan Ton-That sent a letter to the Ukrainian government offering support following the Russian invasion on 24 February.

In the document, seen by IT Pro, Ton-That claims that Clearview AI has access to over 2 billion images obtained through the Russian social media service VKontakte that can be used to identify Russian soldiers. VKontakte is the most popular social network in Russia, with an estimated 400 million registered users.

Clearview AI, which was founded in 2017, has an overall image database of more than 10 billion photos. In 2021, it was found to have violated GDPR, as well as Australia’s privacy laws, and has been hit with cease and desist notices from the likes of Facebook and Twitter for scraping public images for its systems.


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The startup was also found to have broken "several" data protection laws in the UK, with the ICO issuing Clearview AI with a provisional fine of £17 million.

A number of tech giants had reached out to assist Ukraine’s military amidst the Russian invasion, offering support ranging from financial aid to cyber security defences. Businesses including Apple, Cisco, SAP, Microsoft, AMD, Intel, and TSMC also made the decision to pull their operations out of Russia, yet some were criticised for their slow response.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the subject of protests during Barcelona’s MWC, before it announced on 9 March that it would no longer accept new subscriptions from Russia and its ally Belarus.

Amazon also stated that it’s working with NGOs and employees to offer immediate humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens, having donated $5 million to organisations providing critical aid on the ground, including UNICEF, UNHCR, World Food Program, Red Cross, Polska Akcja Humanitarna, and Save the Children.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.