The United States Postal Service (USPS) is reportedly using the facial recognition technology Clearview AI to spy on American citizens.
According to interviews and documents reviewed by Yahoo News, the use of the technology by the USPS Inspection Service is part of a program that tracks citizens’ social media activity and shares the information with law enforcement agencies.
Under the Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), analysts use Clearview’s collection of images scraped from public websites to “identify unknown targets” and report on them to the authorities.
According to Yahoo News, iCOP accesses Clearview’s facial recognition database of over 3 billion images from arrest photos uploaded to social media “to help identify unknown targets in an investigation or locate additional social media accounts for known individuals.”
Materials reviewed by the news source appear to show the USPS scouring social media using software designed by Zignal Labs. Inspection Service documents show the software being used to run keyword searches on social media event pages to identify potential threats from forthcoming scheduled protests.
To maintain anonymity during these covert operations, the analysts searching social media reportedly use the software Nfusion. This software lets users create and maintain untraceable and anonymous social media accounts.
“This review of publicly available open-source information, including news reports and social media, is one piece of a comprehensive security and threat analysis, and the information obtained is the same information anyone can access as a private citizen,” said the USPS Inspection Service.
“News reports and social media listening activity helps protect the 644,000 men and women who work for the Postal Service by ensuring they are able to avoid potentially volatile situations while working to process and deliver the nation’s mail every day.”
Civil rights groups have raised concerns over the USPS Inspection Service’s large-scale surveillance operation.
“If these efforts are directed toward surveilling lawful protesters, the public and Congress need to know why this is happening, under what authority and subject to what kinds of oversight and protections,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Liberty & National Security Program of the Brennan Center for Justice.