Ukraine is reportedly using facial recognition software provided by surveillance technology firm Clearview AI to identify slain Russian soldiers and contact their families with reports of their deaths.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the software, donated by the U.S.-based company, is being used by Ukrainian forces to scan and identify the faces of fallen soldiers, tie them to their social media accounts, and contact the families of the deceased to show them photos of their dead bodies.
The outlet called it “one of the most gruesome applications of the technology to date.”
“The Ukrainians champion the use of face-scanning software from the U.S. tech firm Clearview AI as a brutal but effective way to stir up dissent inside Russia, discourage other fighters and hasten an end to a devastating war,” the Post reported.
According to the Post, as well as a now-viral Ukrainian propaganda video, the Ukrainians hope to provoke the families of the slain troops into turning against the Russian war effort.
So far, Ukraine has reportedly run more than 8,600 facial recognition searches on dead or captured Russian soldiers in the 50 days since the conflict began. Ukraine’s IT army, described as a “volunteer force of hackers and activists that takes its direction from the Ukrainian government” said it has informed the families of the deaths of 582 Russians, including sending them photos of their corpses.
Previously shared footage on social media showed Ukrainian soldiers taunting the families of slain Russian troops on Facetime and WhatsApp.
The effort isn’t being well-received by military and technology analysts, who expressed concern to the outlet that the effort to target Russian mothers will only serve to inflame public anger against Ukraine.
Stephanie Hare, a surveillance researcher who spoke to the Post, said that contacting soldiers’ parents is “classic psychological warfare” that could set a dangerous new standard for future conflicts.
“If it were Russian soldiers doing this with Ukrainian mothers, we might say, ‘Oh, my God, that’s barbaric,’” said the analyst. “And is it actually working? Or is it making them say: ‘Look at these lawless, cruel Ukrainians, doing this to our boys?’”
Speaking to the Post, Clearview AI’s chief executive Hoan Ton-That said that the company has provided more than 340 Ukrainian officials across five agencies access to the facial recognition technology. The company, he said, offers “weekly, sometimes daily” training calls with new police and military officials looking to gain access to the software.
The executive bragged that he witnessed several “oh, wow moments” by Ukrainian officials who saw how much data they could gleam from scanning in the bodies of dead Russian troops, including family photos, social media photos, and relationship details.
“They’re so enthusiastic,” Ton-That said. “Their energy is really high. They say they’re going to win, every call.”