Massive Facial Recognition Hack Highlights Need to Call Pause

The hack of billions of photos from an Australian start-up, Clearview AI, which harvests photos from social media and bundles the information for law enforcement agencies, reinforces the need to place a moratorium on facial recognition technology.

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology is supporting the Australian Human Rights Commission’s proposal for a moratorium on facial recognition technology until a framework that protects the rights of individuals is developed.

Clearview AI is a clear case study of the issues surrounding facial recognition technology, which are yet to be confronted, including:

  • The level of consent users should have over their information being captured and on-sold, either to businesses or state authorities;
  • The protection of an individual’s personal information and how it is interpreted and used, particularly by the government;
  • The security standards required for the storage and disposal of such information, especially when an image has been removed by a user from the public domain.

“While Clearview AI has dismissed the hacks as part of life in the 21st century, the idea that this depth of information has been harvested – and now stolen – is shocking,” said Peter Lewis, Director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

“Facial recognition is a complex technology that has the potential to compromise personal privacy. Too often, the architecture of these systems does not protect the security of people’s biometric information or their basic rights.

“This is not an abstract concern about privacy. Police forces around the world are using services like Clearview AI’s to enforce the law. If our personal information isn’t secure in these systems, this could lead to terrible injustice.

“Companies like Clearview AI are enabling governments to engage in mass surveillance at an unprecedented scale, without proper protections for our rights or against misuse of our personal information. This data breach shows how vulnerable we all are.

The Centre for Responsible Technology will be releasing its response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s technology discussion paper next week. The moratorium on facial recognition technology is a key recommendation in the Human Rights Commission’s discussion paper: