Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup's Quest to End Privacy as We Know It
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The story of a small AI company that gave facial recognition to law enforcement, billionaires, and businesses, threatening to end privacy as we know it
“The dystopian future portrayed in some science-fiction movies is already upon us. Kashmir Hill’s fascinating book brings home the scary implications of this new reality.”—John Carreyrou, author of Bad Blood
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Wired
Winner of the Inc. Non-Obvious Book Award • Longlisted for the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award
New York Times tech reporter Kashmir Hill was skeptical when she got a tip about a mysterious app called Clearview AI that claimed it could, with 99 percent accuracy, identify anyone based on just one snapshot of their face. The app could supposedly scan a face and, in just seconds, surface every detail of a person’s online life: their name, social media profiles, friends and family members, home address, and photos that they might not have even known existed. If it was everything it claimed to be, it would be the ultimate surveillance tool, and it would open the door to everything from stalking to totalitarian state control. Could it be true?
In this riveting account, Hill tracks the improbable rise of Clearview AI, helmed by Hoan Ton-That, an Australian computer engineer, and Richard Schwartz, a former Rudy Giuliani advisor, and its astounding collection of billions of faces from the internet. The company was boosted by a cast of controversial characters, including conservative provocateur Charles C. Johnson and billionaire Donald Trump backer Peter Thiel—who all seemed eager to release this society-altering technology on the public. Google and Facebook decided that a tool to identify strangers was too radical to release, but Clearview forged ahead, sharing the app with private investors, pitching it to businesses, and offering it to thousands of law enforcement agencies around the world.
Facial recognition technology has been quietly growing more powerful for decades. This technology has already been used in wrongful arrests in the United States. Unregulated, it could expand the reach of policing, as it has in China and Russia, to a terrifying, dystopian level.
Your Face Belongs to Us is a gripping true story about the rise of a technological superpower and an urgent warning that, in the absence of vigilance and government regulation, Clearview AI is one of many new technologies that challenge what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once called “the right to be let alone.”
Praise for Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup's Quest to End Privacy as We Know It
“As I read Your Face Belongs to Us, it dawned on me that the dystopian future portrayed in some science-fiction movies is already upon us. Whether you like it or not, your face has already been scraped from the internet, stored in a giant database, and made available to law enforcement agencies, private corporations, and authoritarian governments to track and surveil you. Kashmir Hill’s fascinating book brings home the scary implications of this new reality.”—John Carreyrou, author of Bad Blood
“Kashmir Hill all but invented the tech dystopia beat, and no one is a more exuberant and enjoyable guide to the dark corners of our possible future than she is. Reaching deep into the past to paint a terrifying portrait of our future, Hill’s thorough, awe-inspiring reporting and compelling storytelling paint a fascinating tale of tech’s next chapter. This is the most fun you can have reading a real-life nightmare.”—Garrett Graff, author of The Only Plane in the Sky