Photo Storage App Reportedly Used Customers

Photo Storage App Reportedly Used Customers' Images to Train a Facial Recognition System

Ever, a photo storage and backup app, reportedly trained a commercial facial recognition system using millions of images uploaded to the service without notifying users.

Millions of images uploaded to Ever, a photo storage and backup app, were reportedly used by the service without user knowledge to train a commercial facial recognition system. According to NBC News, Ever didn’t disclose to users of the app that their images would be used this way.

Ever uses photos uploaded to its app to train a facial recognition algorithm that powers products like a facial recognition system offered by the company to law enforcement and private companies, sold under Ever AI. Ever’s website doesn’t make this clear to users, NBC News reported, and the app only recently updated its privacy policy with more information on how customers’ photos are used by the company.

The privacy policy had previously explained that the facial recognition technology in the app—such as an opt-in face-tagging feature allowing users to search for specific friends or family on the app—was used to help “organize your files and enable you to share them with the right people.” One line— “Your files may be used to help improve and train our products and these technologies”—was the only indication the policy included that the photos could or would be used otherwise.

After NBC News first made contact with Ever for its reporting, the company added the following sentence to clarify and explain further: “Some of these technologies may be used in our separate products and services for enterprise customers, including our enterprise face recognition offerings, but your files and personal information will not be,” the policy now states.

CEO Doug Aley told NBC News that Ever AI doesn’t share photos or identifying information about users of its app with its facial recognition customers.

According to Aley, Ever decided to explore facial recognition a few years ago when he and other company leadership realized that a free photo app with some premium features for purchase “wasn’t going to be a venture-scale business.” Aley said that Ever having a “corpus” of more than 13 billion images was very valuable when developing an algorithm for facial recognition.

“If you are able to feed a system many millions of faces, that system is going to end up being better and more accurate on the other side of that,” he said.

NBC News reports that Ever AI has contracts with private companies but hasn’t signed with any “law enforcement, military or national security agencies”.

On the company’s website, Ever AI encourages public agencies to use its “technology to provide your citizens and law enforcement personnel with the highest degree of protection from crime, violence and injustice.”

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