Facial recognition tech used by Volusia deputies criticized for ‘scraping’

Company CEO says platform is basically search engine for faces

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The company behind a facial recognition tool used by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office is coming under fire after some large tech companies said the tool is violating their terms of use.

According to CBS News, Clearview AI received cease and desist letters late Tuesday from Google and YouTube. The letters surrounded the company’s use of a method known as scraping to source billions of images from millions of websites and social media platforms.

Twitter previously sent a similar letter, which demanded Clearview AI stop scraping pictures from their platform and delete any data collected.

[RELATED: How Volusia County Sheriff’s Office will --and won’t-- use facial recognition AI | Volusia sheriff answers questions on deputies using facial recognition technology]

During an exclusive interview with "CBS This Morning," CEO and Founder Hoan Ton-That defended the company's use of the practice.

"Our lead counsel has reached out to (Twitter) and are handling it accordingly, but there is also a first amendment right to public information," he said.

Ton-That also argued that his platform is essentially a search engine for faces.

“Google can pull in information from all different websites,” Ton-That said. “So, if it’s public and it’s out there and it can be inside Google’s search engine, it can be inside ours as well.”

In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for Google called the comparison inaccurate.

"We give webmasters control over what information from their site is included in our search results, including the option to opt out entirely," the spokesperson said.

Clearview AI is only available for use by law enforcement and the company said more than 600 agencies across the country are currently using the software.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office invested $10,000 for one year to see if the program is worth using long term.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood said to date, it has generated 30 leads and helped make four arrests.

“There is technology out there that can help keep us safer. As long as it’s used responsibly by responsible people within the guidelines and the framework of the law, I don’t see any issue with it," Chitwood said.

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