Apple Brought the Hammer Down on This Creepy Facial Recognition Company

Clearview AI Credit: BTV
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Apple is taking action against a controversial facial recognition app for violating the terms of its enterprise developer certificate program, according to a new report.

Clearview AI is a New York-based company that provides facial recognition services to law enforcement and government entities. It’s also extremely controversial, since it has allegedly scraped billions of images of user faces from social media platforms and other platforms like Facebook and Venmo.

The company’s scraping may have violated the terms of services of those social media sites. And the New York Times reported that many privacy experts claimed the service could “end privacy as we know it.”

But Apple isn’t cracking down on Clearview for those reasons. Instead, the Cupertino tech giant revoked the company’s enterprise certificate for side-loading apps onto client devices.

An Apple enterprise certificate is meant for companies to distribute private apps internally. Using it to side-load apps onto other user devices is a violation of Apple’s enterprise program. Clearview was allegedly using its enterprise certificate to allow its clients to download the app that it makes.

According to BuzzFeed News, Clearview had been distributing its facial recognition app to more than 2,200 entities and companies using its enterprise certificate, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, Macy’s and Walmart.

The company claims to search the “open web” for “publicly available images” in an effort to help law enforcement “identify perpetrators and victims of crimes.” According to the NYT expose, Clearview helped the Indiana State Police solve a crime in about 20 minutes.

While the BuzzFeed article didn’t specify it, it’s likely that Apple’s action has rendered the app useless on iOS and other Apple operating systems. The company also gave Clearview 14 days to respond to the notice.

This isn’t the first time that Apple has cracked down on similar use of its enterprise program. When Facebook and Google were revealed to be using the program to sidestep the App Store, Apple brought the hammer down on those companies, too.

Earlier this week, Clearview announced that an attacker had gained “unauthorized access” to its full client list. While no data was accessed beyond the list of its customers, cybersecurity experts theorize that the breach could damage the company’s reputation for security.

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