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Coinbase tests controversial facial recognition app Clearview AI

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This was revealed in a report by BuzzFeed, which found Coinbase to be among 46 financial firms including Wells Fargo and Bank of America that have tapped Clearview's database of billions of photos scraped from Facebook, Instagram, and other websites.

Clearview's tech has raised red flags with numerous big tech firms including Apple, which suspended the firm for flouting its developer policies, and Google, Facebook, and Twitter, all of which have sent the firm cease-and-desist letters. The app has also riled politicians, with U.S. Senators scrutinizing the sale of its services to authoritarian regimes.

Exactly what Coinbase was testing with Clearview is not clear, but a spokesperson for Coinbase told BuzzFeed the company was testing Clearview because of its "unique needs around security and compliance."

"Our security and compliance teams tested Clearview AI to see if the service could meaningfully bolster our efforts to protect employees and offices against physical threats and investigate fraud," said the spokesperson. "At this time, we have not made any commitments to use Clearview AI."


Coinbase's brief flirtation with Clearview has prompted widespread condemnation on social media.

Within moments of the revelation, the #deletecoinbase hashtag had resurfaced on Twitter. The hashtag originated in March 2019 after Coinbase announced that it had acquired Neutrino—a blockchain intelligence startup affiliated with controversial Italian spyware vendor Hacking Team.

Along with concerns that facial recognition tech is antithetical to decentralized systems, critics have taken the opportunity to pick apart unpopular decisions the exchange has made over the past few years.

Bitcoin advocate Andreas Antonopoulos labeled the Clearview testing as 'disgusting', and Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation, lambasted Coinbase for "encouraging new customers to consider a variety of tokens including a number of zombie or scam projects, and equating them with Bitcoin."

Meanwhile, Square's Coinbase competitor Cash App—led by Bitcoin supporter Jack Dorsey—is on the rise.

The App claims to have attracted 9 million more users in 2019, giving it a total of approximately 24 million monthly active customers at the end of the year. This figure is rapidly approaching Coinbase, which had 30 million users at last count in July 2019 according to data from Alistair Milne.



Kieran Smith, Khareem Sudlow