Modern War

Ukraine is using Clearview facial ID on dead Russian soldiers

“But clouded eyes and injured and expressionless faces potentially make facial recognition unreliable on the dead..”


Ukrainian soldiers patrol in a village on the frontline of the northern part of Kyiv region on March...

It has come to this: Ukraine confirmed late last week that it is utilizing Clearview AI’s controversial facial ID and data scraping technology to assist in identifying some of the thousands of dead Russian soldiers killed during the ongoing war instigated by Vladimir Putin’s government. Speaking with Reuters, Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov explained that the tech was specifically being used to match deceased men’s faces with social media account photos.

"As a courtesy to the mothers of those soldiers, we are disseminating this information over social media to at least let families know that they they've lost their sons and to then enable them to come to collect their bodies," said Fedorov, who also oversees the nation’s ministry of digital transformation.

It is unclear just how many casualties have been positively and accurately ID’ed using Clearview AI’s products, although Fedorov asserted that the number of responsive Russian families was “high.” The Ukrainian government claims that over 15,000 Russian soldiers have died since the war began last month.


It’s on the house — Clearview AI has reportedly offered its services to the Ukrainian government for free, which would be nice to hear under almost any other conceivable circumstance than this. Instead, the nation is an au gratis product delivered by a company infamously known for being a privacy nightmare dedicated to ushering in an entirely new era of global dystopian surveillance. It’s creepy at the very least, and absolutely horrifying by pretty much any way you view it.

A one-way street — Of particular note in Reuters report is that vice prime minister Fedorov also relayed Clearview’s facial recognition tech wasn’t being used on Ukrainians, without offering any reason as to why. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which Clearview AI uses these scans of dead human beings’ faces to improve its own machine learning capabilities, and Ukrainian officials know this.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians have bigger things to worry about, like their nation’s sovereignty and the growing number of deceased Russians throughout the country. Clearview AI’s tech could, in theory, help get rid of at least some of these casualties, and since it’s free, Ukraine doesn’t have all that much to lose. It’s a grim, tactical pact made only grimmer by the knowledge that this cannot truly be the best way to move forward right now.

If all that weren’t enough, as one researcher explained to Reuters, “clouded eyes and injured and expressionless faces potentially make facial recognition unreliable on the dead,” so on top of everything else, the accuracy here is also questionable. Don’t worry, learning about this really put a damper on our day, too.