Air Force uses Clearview AI to research AR glasses for facial recognition

The US Air Force is trying to make its airfields safer with the help of facial recognition start-up Clearview AI.

The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded Clearview $49,847 to research augmented reality glasses that can scan people’s faces to help with base security.

Brian Ripple, a spokesman for the lab, described the work as a three-month study to determine the “scientific and technical merit and feasibility” of using such glasses for facial recognition.

“No glasses or units will be supplied under this contract,” Mr Ripple said on Thursday.

In other words, the lab pays for the glasses to be developed, but doesn’t buy them yet. Mr. Ripple provided “a one-page overview of the company” titled “Clearview AI: Augmented Reality Glasses To Secure Bases and Flightlines.” The flyer said the product “saves lives,” “saves time” and “improves health” by increasing social distancing and freeing officers’ hands to pick up their guns.

New York-based Clearview AI has been the target of international investigations and lawsuits for scraping billions of photos from the public internet to develop a facial recognition tool used by law enforcement. Hundreds of federal agencies and local police departments have deployed Clearview’s technology.

The company describes its software as ideal for post-crime investigations rather than surveillance, but has experimented with real-time facial recognition.

In January 2020, a technologist from The Times found code in the company’s app that showed it could be paired with augmented reality glasses. At the time, Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI, admitted designing a prototype but said the company had no plans to release it.

“We continually research and develop new technologies, processes and platforms to address current and future security challenges and look forward to any opportunities that would bring us together with the Air Force in this area,” Mr. Ton-That said in a subsequent statement The contract became public. “We believe that once this technology is realized, it will be extremely well suited to a wide range of security situations.”

Last month, Mr Ton-That said in a public letter that his company doesn’t use its technology “in real time,” but adding facial recognition technology to glasses seems to live up to that claim.

In a phone call, Mr Ton-That said Clearview’s database of 10 billion photos “won’t be used for real-time surveillance” and that any augmented reality goggles would instead rely on “limited datasets — pending warrants, for example.” missing children or persons of interest.”

The Air Force contract was signed in November but only became public on Thursday. It was first highlighted on Twitter by Jack Poulson, chief executive of Tech Inquiry, a nonprofit organization that oversees government procurement of surveillance technology.

The Air Force previously awarded Clearview AI $50,000 for research and development in December 2019. BuzzFeed News previously reported that the Air Force was one of many departments within federal agencies that had been conducting trials of the company’s facial recognition software.

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