The use of one of the largest facial recognition software databases in the country jumped 26% on the day after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, with police and law enforcement agencies turning to the technology to try to identify the agitators behind the attack, the company confirmed.
Clearview AI, a New York-based company, saw the surge in the use of its database of more than three billion publicly-harvested images on Jan. 7, as some of its client base that consists of more than 2,400 law enforcement agencies began the still-ongoing process of identifying those involved.
The New York Times was the first to report on the surge.
“Everyone has a constitutional right to protest,” said Clearview AI’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That. “But if you’re damaging property and you’re doing bad things, it's a different story. So, we're honored to know that and hear from our customers that it has been very effective in identifying some of these people.”
Last Wednesday, hundreds of people – some armed with guns, tactical gear and zip-ties – pushed their way into the halls of the U.S. Capitol, smashed or dismantled property and went into House and Senate leaders’ chambers. Hill staffers and lawmakers were under lockdown, or hid behind chairs and under desks and tables.
Videos and images from the attack paint a horrifying picture – with one police officers being chased and another being pushed against a door as he howled in pain – and people inside the building trying to get away from the invaders as they penetrate what is typically highly secure property.
Five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, died during or in connection with Wednesday's events.
On Monday morning, the FBI told Fox News it had received "over 40,000 digital media tips, including video and photos, from the public."
After the FBI appealed to the public for help, law enforcement agencies from around the country began conducting their own facial recognition searches through Clearview’s database and sending any leads to the FBI, Ton-That said.
Clearview faced scrutiny earlier this year over its use of the publicly-harvested images, which are pulled from public social media sites, as well as news articles and any webpages gleaned from an Internet search.
In February, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, among other social media companies, demanded the company stop taking images from their users’ pages, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Meanwhile, dozens of people have been charged federally in connection with Wednesday’s riot, while the FBI is still seeking to identify dozens more.
Suspects still wanted as of Monday night include a person believed to have planted pipe bombs at the offices of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee in D.C. The explosives were neutralized before they could detonate.
Anyone who believes they have information or images in connection with Wednesday’s events is asked to call 1800-CALL-FBI or submit tips online by clicking here.