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Software to Identify the Homeless and People With Mental Issues

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February 16, 2021

Buzzfeed reports that Clearview AI, the facial recognition company, has applied for a patent that could be used to identify drug users and the homeless. Last June the company said in a federal court that it would take voluntary actions to “avoid transacting with non-governmental customers anywhere,” but the patent application, made three months later, describes ways to apply its facial recognition software to the private sector. “A strong need exists for an improved method and system to obtain information about a person,” according to the application, which claims a method for running a rapid background check based on an image of a face. The application describes potential uses, such as creating networks for people in industries like real estate or retail to “share headshots of high-risk individuals.” It also says users could deploy Clearview to identify “a sex offender” or “homeless people,” or to determine whether someone has a “mental issue or handicap.” It could display profile information, including nationality, educational history, phone numbers, email addresses, and personal interests. David J. Stein, an attorney with Studebaker & Brackett, observes that there are no details in the application about how people can protect themselves from being probed in this way.

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