Facial recognition company says hacker accessed database

Facial recognition company says hacker accessed database
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Clearview AI, a tech startup that has compiled billions of photos for facial recognition software, announced Wednesday that it had lost its entire client list to a data breach.

The Daily Beast obtained a statement that the startup sent to its customers which said that someone had "gained unauthorized access" to its customer database.

Clearview AI has contracts with numerous law enforcement agencies and police departments.

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“Security is Clearview’s top priority,” Tor Ekeland, a company attorney, told The Daily Beast.

“Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century. Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw, and continue to work to strengthen our security," he added.

The firm saw significant criticism in January when The New York Times reported on the company's contracts with law enforcements. According to the Times, Clearview AI has mined more than 3 billions photos from the internet, including from popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. These photos reportedly stay within the company's database even after they've been deleted by the original user. 

The Times's investigation led to Clearview AI receiving cease-and-desist letters from Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Earlier in February, Clearview AI founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That tried to assuage concerns about his company's technology, telling CNN that his goal is to build a "great American company" with "the best of intentions," and that he'd never sell his technology to U.S. adversaries such as Iran, Russia and China.