Clearview AI and Ukraine: when a company pursues the interests of its home country

In the security world (biometrics, access control, cybersecurity, and other areas), there has been a lot of discussion about the national origins and/or ownership of various security products.

If a particular product originates in country X, then will the government of country X require the product to serve the national interests of country X?

You see the effects of this everywhere:

  • FOCI mitigation at U.S. subsidiaries of foreign countries.
  • Marketing materials that state that a particular product is the best “among Western vendors” (which may or may not explain why this is important – see the second caveat here for examples).
  • European Union regulations that serve to diminish American influence.
  • The policies of certain countries (China, Iran, North Korea, Russia) that serve to eliminate American influence entirely.

Clearview AI, Ukraine, and Russia

Clearview AI is a U.S. company, but its relationship with the U.S. government is, in Facebook terms, “complicated.”

It’s complicated primarily because “the U.S. government” consists of a number of governments at the federal, state, and local level, and a number of agencies within these governments that sometimes work at cross-purposes with one another. Some U.S. government agencies love Clearview AI, while others hate it.

However, according to Reuters, the Ukrainian government can be counted in the list of governments that love Clearview AI.

Ukraine is receiving free access to Clearview AI’s powerful search engine for faces, letting authorities potentially vet people of interest at checkpoints, among other uses, added Lee Wolosky, an adviser to Clearview and former diplomat under U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

From https://www.reuters.com/technology/exclusive-ukraine-has-started-using-clearview-ais-facial-recognition-during-war-2022-03-13/

But before you assume that Clearview is just helping anybody, Reuters also pointed this out.

Clearview said it had not offered the technology to Russia…

From https://www.reuters.com/technology/exclusive-ukraine-has-started-using-clearview-ais-facial-recognition-during-war-2022-03-13/

Here is an example of a company that is supporting certain foreign policies of the government in which it resides. Depending upon your own national origin, you may love this example, or you may hate this example.

Of course, even some who support U.S. actions in Ukraine may not support Clearview AI’s actions in Ukraine. But that’s another story.

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