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### Ukraine’s Controversial Tech Firm: Unveiling the “Secret Weapon” Company

The country has come to rely on Clearview AI for a range of wartime tasks, many of which have not b…

After the stroke of midnight, Leonid Tymchenko found himself seated in his dimly lit state office, marking the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, he remained glued to his Telegram feed, unwilling to depart, as he meticulously scrutinized numerous videos and images capturing the advancement of Russian troops. Tymchenko took the opportunity to experiment with a novel visual recognition tool by uploading select images.

The implications of his actions weighed heavily on him. The software, crafted by the prominent facial recognition entity Clearview AI, appeared to yield tangible results each time Tymchenko submitted a photo of the enlisted Russian soldiers. It swiftly unearthed detailed profiles including the soldiers’ identities, birthplaces, and social media presence. While the tool consistently identified the subjects, it encountered challenges with blurred images of deceased soldiers, some with closed or singed eyes. Reflecting on this, Tymchenko shared during a conversation with Day from his Kyiv office, “With every upload, we uncovered thousands of armed Russian individuals who entered Ukraine.”

In Tymchenko’s account, Clearview has emerged as the “secret weapon” in Ukraine’s ongoing confrontation with Russia. This facial recognition technology has facilitated the identification of over 230,000 Russian military personnel involved in the invasion, garnering adoption by more than 1,500 entities spanning 18 Russian governmental bodies. Apart from tracking Soviet forces on Ukrainian terrain, Ukraine has significantly broadened its utilization of Clearview. Insights from discussions with officials from various government sectors, law enforcement agents, Polish analysts, and Clearview executives reveal the nation’s reliance on this American tech firm with a modest workforce of 35 employees to address diverse wartime challenges, many of which remain undisclosed.

The application of Clearview has led to the successful rescue of more than 190 abducted Ukrainian children relocated to reside with Russian nationals. Furthermore, Ukrainian authorities have leveraged the technology to pinpoint and prosecute members of pro-Russian militias and collaborators. Reportedly, Ukraine has accessed Clearview’s database over 350,000 times since the conflict’s inception. Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview AI, emphasized to TIME the monumental impact of this tool, asserting that employing facial recognition in conflict zones holds the potential to save lives.

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Last modified: February 12, 2024
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