The facial-recognition app Clearview sees a spike in use after Capitol assault.

Clearview AI, a facial recognition app used by law enforcement agencies, has seen a surge in the wake of the Capitol riot, said the company’s executive director, Hoan Ton-That.

“Searches were up 26 percent over our usual weekday search volume,” said Ton-That.

There are numerous photos and videos online of rioters, many of which have been exposed, and who are breaching the Capitol. The FBI released the faces of dozens of them and asked for help with identification. Local police stations across the country answer her call.

“We’re considering what pictures or videos are available on all the websites we can get our hands on,” said Armando Aguilar, Miami Police Department deputy chief overseeing the investigation.

Two detectives in the department’s Real Time Crime Center use Clearview to identify rioters and send the potential matches to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force office in Miami. You have reached a possible match within the first hour of searching.

“This is the greatest threat we have faced in my life,” said Aguilar. “The peaceful transfer of power is of fundamental importance for our republic.”

Traditional facial recognition tools used by law enforcement agencies depend on databases that contain government-provided photos, such as: B. Driver’s license photos and mug shots. Clearview, which the company claims is used by over 2,400 law enforcement agencies, instead relies on a database of more than 3 billion photos collected on social networks and other public websites. When an officer does a search, the app provides links to websites on the web that have viewed the person’s face.

In part because of its effectiveness, Clearview is controversial. After the New York Times announced its existence and widespread use last year, lawmakers and social media companies tried to curtail their operations, fearing that their facial recognition skills could pave the way for a dystopian future.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Oxford Police Department in Alabama is also using Clearview to identify suspects in the Capitol riot and is sending information to the FBI. Neither the Oxford Police Department nor the FBI did this responded to requests for comments.

Face recognition is not a perfect tool. Law enforcement says they are only using facial recognition as a clue for an investigation and would not incriminate anyone based on that charge alone, even though they have done so in the past.

When asked if Clearview had carried out a search itself, Mr Ton-That declined.

“Some people think we should be, but that’s really not our job. We are a technology company and a provider, ”he said. “We are not a vigilante group.”

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