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Facebook Sends Cease And Desist Letter To AI Startup, Joins Twitter, Venmo, YouTube

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has joined other social media giants and has sent Clearview AI a cease and desist letter to stop using user images to identify them for law e

Benzinga · 02/06/2020 11:20

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has joined other social media giants and has sent Clearview AI a cease and desist letter to stop using user images to identify them for law enforcement.

What Happened

Clearview AI has been scrapping billions of photos from the internet and facilitating more than 600 police departments in identifying people, according to a tech publication CNET.

Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) said it had sent a cease and desist letter to the startup in January. Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) video streaming website YouTube has also asked Clearview AI to stop scraping user information while Paypal Inc. (NASDAQ: PYPL) owned Venmo is also sending the complaint letter. 

A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that multiple letters had to been sent to Clearview AI to make the social network’s policies clear and request information about the activities of the facial recognition startup. The spokesperson said, “Scraping people’s information violates our policies, which is why we’ve demanded that Clearview stop accessing or using information from Facebook or Instagram.”

Why It Matters

Clearview Ai’s technology can identify a person’s face, phone number, name, and even address by comparing a photo with billions of social media profiles online.

Websites such as YouTube and Twitter have provisions against this type of activity in their user agreements, according to Business Insider, and they are taking steps to prevent such misuse. 

Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview AI, told CBS News in an interview that the technology used in the app won’t be made available to the general public. He said that the app was only available for law-enforcement to be used in the identification of criminals. 

Ton-That also compared the activities of his company to the search engine Google in the interview. “Google can pull in information from all different websites," illustrating his point, he said. "So if it's public and it's out there and could be inside Google search engine, it can be inside ours as well."

Price Action

Facebook shares closed 0.13% higher at $210.11 on Wednesday. The shares were mostly unchanged in the after-hours session.