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March 2020
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Clearview Was A Toy For Billionaires Before It Became A Toy For Cops

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Clearview's claims that its controversial facial recognition program is only for use by law enforcement agencies continues to be exposed as a lie. Documents obtained by BuzzFeed showed the company has sold its tech to a variety of private companies, including major retailers like Kohl's and Walmart.It's also expanding its reach across the globe, pitching its products to dozens of countries, including those known mostly for their human rights violations. Even when it limits itself to law enforcement agencies, it still can't help lying -- exaggerating its success and assistance in criminal investigations.Before Clearview became a plaything for government agencies and private corporations, it was a toy for the rich and powerful. Kashmir Hill -- who broke the first story about Clearview's problematic image-scraping operation -- has a followup in the New York Times detailing the company's unpleasant origin story.

One Tuesday night in October 2018, John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes grocery store chain, was having dinner at Cipriani, an upscale Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, when his daughter, Andrea, walked in. She was on a date with a man Mr. Catsimatidis didn’t recognize. After the couple sat down at another table, Mr. Catsimatidis asked a waiter to go over and take a photo.Mr. Catsimatidis then uploaded the picture to a facial recognition app, Clearview AI, on his phone. The start-up behind the app has a database of billions of photos, scraped from sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Within seconds, Mr. Catsimatidis was viewing a collection of photos of the mystery man, along with the web addresses where they appeared: His daughter’s date was a venture capitalist from San Francisco.“I wanted to make sure he wasn’t a charlatan,” said Mr. Catsimatidis, who then texted the man’s bio to his daughter.
That's just one anecdote. There are others. Investors approached by Clearview, like venture capitalist Hal Lambert, explored the power of Clearview's app in pretty irresponsible ways. Lambert allowed his school-aged daughters access to the app. And it appears actor/investor Ashton Kutcher was given access to the app. He described an app that sounds exactly like Clearview when he appeared on the YouTube series "Hot Ones" last September.
“I have an app in my phone in my pocket right now. It’s like a beta app,” Mr. Kutcher said. “It’s a facial recognition app. I can hold it up to anybody’s face here and, like, find exactly who you are, what internet accounts you’re on, what they look like. It’s terrifying.”
It is terrifying. And far more people have had access to it than Clearview has admitted. Plenty of potential investors were given access to the app. It's not clear how many still have access, but it appears their use of the app went unmonitored/uncontrolled by Clearview. Understandably, investors want to know if the thing they're looking to invest in works, but Clearview did nothing to ensure this access was limited or used responsibly. That same attitude has carried over to its pitches to law enforcement, which encourages cops to use friends and family members as guinea pigs for tech it claims should only be used for legitimate law enforcement efforts.Power and responsibility are supposed to go hand-in-hand. There's none of that happening here. Clearview compiled a database by scraping images from hundreds of websites and is now selling this access to pretty much anyone willing to buy it.

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Mar-2020
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SoftBank Owned Patent Troll, Using Monkey Selfie Law Firm, Sues To Block Covid-19 Testing, Using Theranos Patents

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Honestly, I wasn't sure how to begin this story or how to fit all the insanity into the title. It's a story involving patents, patent trolling, Covid-19, Theranos, and even the company that brought us all WeWork: SoftBank. Oh, and also Irell & Manella, the same law firm that once claimed it could represent a monkey in a copyright infringement dispute. You see, Irell & Manella has now filed one of the most utterly bullshit patent infringement lawsuits you'll ever see. They are representing "Labrador Diagnostics LLC" a patent troll which does not seem to exist other than to file this lawsuit, and which claims to hold the rights to two patents (US Patents 8,283,155 and 10,533,994) which, you'll note, were originally granted to Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos -- the firm that shut down in scandal over medical testing equipment that appears to have been oversold and never actually worked. Holmes is still facing federal charges of wire fraud over the whole Theranos debacle.However, back in 2018, the remains of Theranos sold its patents to Fortress Investment Group. Fortress Investment Group is a SoftBank-funded massive patent troll. You may remember the name from the time last fall when Apple and Intel sued the firm, laying out how Fortress is a sort of uber-patent troll, gathering up a bunch of patents and then shaking down basically everyone. Lovely, right?So, this SoftBank-owned patent troll, Fortress, bought up Theranos patents, and then set up this shell company, "Labrador Diagnostics," which decided that right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic it was going to sue one of the companies making Covid-19 tests, saying that its test violates those Theranos patents, and literally demanding that the court bar the firm from making those Covid-19 tests.A bit more background here: the company they're suing, BioFire, recently launched three Covid-19 tests built off of the company's FilmArray technology. And that's what "Labrador" (read: SoftBank) is now suing over. From the lawsuit:

The Accused Products embody at least claim 1 of the '155 Patent, literally or underthe doctrine of equivalents, as set forth below. The further descriptions below, which are based onpublicly available information, are preliminary examples and are non-limiting. On information andbelief, the FilmArray 2.0, FilmArray EZ, and FilmArray Torch devices operate, together with theFilmArray pouches and software, similarly as pertinent to the non-limiting examples set forthbelow. On information and belief, the FilmArray EZ operates in substantially the same manner asthe FilmArray 2.0, and as such is not separately addressed below. For the purposes of infringement,Plaintiff Labrador's non-limiting examples relating to the FilmArray 2.0 are equally applicable tothe FilmArray EZ, albeit with use of at least the RP EZ Panel designed for use with the FilmArrayEZ. See BioFire Diagnostics Website, https://www.biofiredx.com/products/the-filmarraypanels/filmarray-respiratory-panel-ez/.
So, let's summarize: The firm that basically created the mess that is WeWork by dumping billions of dollars into the company, also owns a patent troll that bought up the patents from the sham medical testing firm Theranos, and is now using those patents to sue one of the few diagnostics companies that is actually making a Covid-19 test... in the middle of a pandemic. And, demanding the use of those tests be blocked:
That Defendants be enjoined from infringing the Asserted Patents, or if theirinfringement is not enjoined, that Defendants be ordered to pay ongoing royalties toLabrador for any post-judgment infringement of the Asserted Patents;
Honestly, I'm used to all sorts of awfulness, but this one piles awfulness upon awfulness, and takes it to a level of pure evil. The lawyers filing this lawsuit on behalf of "Labrador" should remember what they've done -- filing a bullshit patent trolling lawsuit, on behalf of a shell company for a notorious giant patent troll, using patents from a sham company, and using them to try to block the use of Covid-19 diagnostic tests in the middle of a pandemic. I wonder how they sleep at night. For the record, there are two law firms behind this filing. Irell & Manella is the big one, and they list out 7 different lawyers on this complaint: Morgan Chu, Alan Heinrich, Keith Orso, Adina Stohl, Dennis Courtney, Brian Weissenberg and Chaplin Carmichael. Their local firm is Farnan LLP, and the lawyers there are Brian and Michael Farnan. Morgan Chu is the big shot at Irell and runs its litigation group. He should take on much of the responsibility for this awful, awful lawsuit. Farnan LLP was formed by a former federal district court judge, Joseph Farnan, and I'll just note that 4 out of its 6 attorneys, including the two on this case have the same last name.I understand the need for zealous representation of a client in court, but this seems even more despicable than your every day patent trolling, and people should associate these lawyers names with the truly despicable behavior on display here. Similarly, it should be a reminder of why its a good thing that the Supreme Court decided a decade and a half ago that injunctions are often inappropriate in patent cases. I know that there's an effort underway to have Congress change the law to overrule the Supreme Court decision on that point, but imagine how that would play out in this scenario, in which necessary diagnostic testing might get blocked due to some patent troll with deep pockets.

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Mar-2020
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