Ukraine is employing face recognition software to identify the remains of Russian servicemen killed in the war and notify their relatives of their deaths, Ukraine’s vice prime minister told Reuters this month.
According to several sources, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense began employing technology from Clearview AI, a New York-based facial recognition firm that searches the web for images that match individuals in uploaded photos. At the time, it was unclear how the technology would be employed.
Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, said that Ukraine had been using Clearview AI software to discover the social media profiles of killed Russian troops. Authorities are already contacting the families to prepare for the body’s collection, he added.
“As a courtesy to the mothers of those soldiers, we are disseminating this information over social media to let families know that they’ve lost their sons and then enable them to come to collect their bodies,” Fedorov said in an interview, speaking via a translator.
Fedorov would not quantify the number of bodies identified using face recognition, but he did say that the percentage of recognised persons claimed by families was “high.” A Kremlin representative commented on Ukraine’s use of Clearview by saying: “We have no knowledge of this. There are far too many fakes coming out of Ukraine.”
According to Ukraine’s military, 15,000 Russian servicemen have been killed since Russia invaded on February 24. Russia had not updated its casualty counts since March 2, when it announced the deaths of 498 servicemen in what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine.
Face recognition opponents, primarily civil rights organisations, have questioned Ukraine’s use of Clearview, emphasising the possibility of misidentification.
Clearview is fighting a lawsuit brought by customers under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act in U.S. federal court in Chicago. The issue is still underway regarding whether the company’s collection of photographs from the internet breached privacy laws.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has been in charge of the country’s Look For Your Own operation, which involves posting photographs of unidentified detained or deceased Russian troops on Telegram and inviting claims from relatives.
The Ukrainian government maintains an online form via which Russian relatives can file a claim to collect a body. However, Fedorov did not offer information on how the deceased are being delivered to relatives.
Clearview claims that their search engine contains over 2 billion photographs from VKontakte, a famous Russian social networking service.
According to Fedorov, facial recognition is only one of several free tools that Ukraine has adopted as Western companies come to its help. For example, his government is now employing Amazon cloud services to hold “critical data,” he stated.
According to Richard Bassed, head of the forensic medicine department at Monash University in Australia, fingerprints, dental records, and DNA are the most common to validate someone’s identity.
However, obtaining pre-death samples of such data from enemy combatants is challenging, which opens the door to innovative technologies like facial recognition. However, Bassed, working on the technology, feels that the deceased’s face identification may be erroneous because of covered eyes and damaged or expressionless features.
Moreover, the United States Armed Forces Medical Examiner System indicated that automated facial recognition had not been deployed since the technology is not widely accepted in the forensic area.