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Ever Shuts Down Over Privacy Concerns
If you’re not familiar with Ever it is, or we should say, was, a cloud storage app for photos. According to Ever, the reason behind their closing down is increased competition from Google and Apple, who tout their own, more robust cloud storage solutions. This in turn has supposedly caused Ever to find itself in a marketplace that it cannot compete with.
Of course, that is what Ever says, but the truth is slightly more complex than that.
Facial Recognition AI Controversy
You see in 2019 NBC reported that Ever had been using the photos that people uploaded to develop their own facial recognition AI. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, after all both Apple and Google do the same thing. The difference here is that those two giants use public data sets, rather than personal photos provided to them, which is what Ever did.
What makes the situation even more egregious is Ever not sharing with their users what they were doing with their photos. Before the NBC report, you wouldn’t have found any mention of their facial recognition AI and how they were using the Photos users uploaded. In fact, it was only until after the report that Ever decided to add a line to their ToS mentioning that little tidbit.
Ever argued that they weren’t using any personal information of the photos to develop their facial recognition AI, which was called ‘Ever API’. This doesn’t really mean much when you’re the user though, especially when Ever just turned around and sold their API to other businesses. In truth, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California hit the nail on the head when they said this model was an “egregious violation of people’s privacy.”
Sadly, this shutdown is not the end of the story, since Ever simply just rebranded their API and named it Paravision, in an obvious attempt to get away from the controversy of their actions. In fact, they have even gone so far to announce that Paravision achieved top-two accuracy in global rankings by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The company is also selling a suit of other recognition tools, so they haven’t learned anything.
It’s quite ironic, therefore, that Ever calls out both Apple and Google for their practices in their shutdown statement. The implication being clear that Ever feels the business practices of Apple and Google have provided such a steep competition that Ever cannot compete any more. This of course conveniently ignores Ever’s own problems that they were the source of.
In 2016, as Apple and Google started their rise in the photo application market, Ever spammed users’ contacts with an SMS to check the app out. That’s right, they spammed the contacts of their users, not even the users themselves. Obviously this caused love to be lost between Ever and their users, which isn’t even surprising in the slightest.
While this may be a bit of idle speculation on our part, Ever would have probably been able to compete with Google and Apple, especially since Ever was there first, if their business practices weren’t anti-consumer. The SMS spamming and facial recognition are just two of the things we know about, and if we had used Ever, we’d probably have no faith or trust in them to not abuse our data for their own interests.
Ever Shutting Down Forever?
Regardless, Ever is shutting down on August 31, 2020, although they have kindly extended the period for those of you who wish to download your photos to September 30, 2020. Even though the service won’t be available, you can use the export function to get all your photos. The process is described in more detail on the Ever website.
And what about the facial recognition AI? Well, Paravision still exists and is going strong, in fact raising $29mill in funding according to Crunchbase. Heck, they’re even trying to help with Covid-19 using their facial recognition software. Go figure.