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What if a stranger could snap your picture on the sidewalk, then use an app to quickly discover your name, address and other details?
A startup called Clearview AI has made that possible, and its app is being used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the United States. That includes the FBI, which already amassed 641 million images of U.S. citizens from passports and drivers licenses, the New York Times originally reported.
However, the Clearview database consists of more than 3 billion pictures the company scraped off Facebook, Venmo, YouTube and other sites. It then serves up matches, along with links to the sites where those database photos originally appeared.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the impact such an application can have on ordinary people.
It takes stalking to a whole new level.
Remember that drunken party you attended at college, or the work/convention gathering where your hands were all over a person who wasn’t your spouse?
If you think you were embarrassed when your friends reminded of the incident the next day, just wait until your spouse, children, neighbors, bosses and grandmother can upload your picture and find every other image of you that was ever uploaded to the internet.
It also means that even if a person legally changes a name to escape a sordid past, or to prevent an abuser from tracking him or her down, their new identity is blown if there is just one picture on any website anywhere online.
The time for Congress to act on privacy concerns is long overdue.