Apple shuts down controversial facial recognition app for bypassing App Store

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What you need to know

  • Apple has shut down Clearview AI's developer account, putting a stop to the operation of its facial recognition app.
  • That's because Clearview distributed it to more than 2,200 entities via Apple's Developer Enterprise Program.
  • The company has 14 days to respond to Apple.

Apple has shut down Clearview AI's developer account, effectively suspending its iOS app, after it emerged that Clearview was distributing its facial recognition software via Apple's Developer Enterprise Program rather than the App Store.

As reported by BuzzFeed:

Apple has disabled the iOS application of Clearview AI — the facial recognition company that claims to have amassed a database of billions of photos and has worked with thousands of organizations around the world — after BuzzFeed News determined that the New York–based startup had been violating the iPhone maker's rules around app distribution.In distributing its app for Apple devices, Clearview, which BuzzFeed News reported earlier this week has been used by more than 2,200 public and private entities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, Macy's, Walmart, and the NBA, has been sidestepping the Apple App Store, encouraging those who want to use the software to download its app through a program reserved exclusively for developers. In response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News, Apple investigated and suspended the developer account associated with Clearview, effectively preventing the iOS app from operating.

Apple told BuzzFeed that the Apple Developer Enterprise Program should only be used to distribute apps within a company, not to customers and that Clearview had violated that rule. The company has 14 days to respond to Apple. Apple has also similarly chastized both Facebook and Google for similar breaches of its App Store guidelines.

A January report from the New York Times described Clearview AI as "a groundbreaking facial recognition app" built on a database of three billion images scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and more. As the report notes, more than 2,200 public and private entities including the FBI have started using the app.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9