Hoan Ton-That

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Hoan Ton-That
Born1988 (age 34–35)[1]
OccupationSerial entrepreneur
Years active2009–present
Known forChief executive officer at Clearview AI
FamilyTôn Thất[2]

Hoan Ton-That is an Australian[3] entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Clearview AI, a United States-based technology company that creates facial recognition software.[4]


Ton-That says that he began using computers when he was young and was "obsessed with the electronics." He says his first programming language was BASIC and then Visual Basic 2.0.[3]

Ton-That dropped out of university in Australia and moved to San Francisco, California in 2007.[5] He was unsuccessful in early ventures to create social media applications after the advent of Apple's iPhone.[6] His first investor was Naval Ravikant.[3][5] In 2009, he created the company HappyAppy and its app ViddyHo, a phishing application/computer worm that spammed a user's contacts.[7] Ton-That was sought by the police when this worm spread in 2009.[8][9][10][11] He then created fastforwarded.com, a similar phishing site. Ton-That later worked at AngelList.[12] Ton-That would occasionally model, and says he was approached by Ford Models, but chose to continue his technology career.[5][3]

In 2016, Ton-That met Richard Schwartz at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. They partnered on an application with Schwartz paying server costs and basic expenses and Ton-That hiring two engineers who worked on software that could scrape images from Internet sources to cross reference on a facial recognition algorithm.[6][13] It emerged from stealth mode in late 2017 and was linked to far right/alt-right supporters such as Chuck Johnson, Mike Cernovich, Douglass Mackey, and Paul Nehlen.[12]

Clearview AI received investments from Peter Thiel and Naval Ravikant totaling more than $200,000, which later converted into equity in the company.[14] Upon Clearview AI receiving cease-and-desist letters from Google, YouTube, Venmo and LinkedIn, Ton-That appeared on CBS This Morning for an interview with CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett in February 2020.[15]


Going back to at least 2015, Huffington Post has linked Ton-That with the "far right clique" of Mike Cernovich, Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer, and Pax Dickinson, as well as close associates of Peter Thiel, Chuck Johnson and Jeff Giesea. Ton-That and associates worked on projects to advance the far- and alt-right political views, and Johnson posted about using face recognition to identify undocumented immigrants in the United States in early 2017. This group, and others, interacted on a Slack chat set up for WeSearchr[16][17] Two employees at Clearview AI belonged to white nationalist groups and had endorsed those views online.[16][18] The Verge reached out to Ton-That who was "unaware of the online writings" and said he was "not a white supremacist or an anti-semite." They were reportedly dismissed from the company according to Ton-That in a statement claiming to not be "sympathetic to any of those views."[18]

He has claimed that Clearview AI is exclusively a "law enforcement tool"[19] and stated "that it's fair game to help law enforcement solve crimes using publicly-available data."[4] Lawsuits have been filed in regard to the legality of his company's collection of data.[20] In the EU, Clearview AI's photo database was deemed illegal.[21]

Support for Ukraine[edit]

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ton-That contacted the Ukrainian government and offered Clearview AI's facial recognition software and training on that software free of charge.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Ton-That was born in Melbourne, Australia.[5] His mother is a nurse from Tasmania.[5] His father, a professor at Australia National University, moved from Vietnam to Australia on a Colombo Plan Scholarship.[5]

Ton-That is an accomplished classical guitarist and was influenced by guitarist and composer Agustín Barrios Mangoré.[3] He plays chess online and in Washington Square Park.[3]

As of 2021, Ton-That lives in New York City.[3]


  1. ^ "The End of Privacy as We Know It?". The New York Times. 10 February 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  2. ^ "The End of Privacy as We Know It?". The New York Times. 10 February 2020. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Interview with Hoan Ton-That". Max Raskin Interviews. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b Clearview AI CEO Defends Facial Recognition Software. PBS. 19 February 2020. Event occurs at 19:47.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Meet the CEO of the world's most controversial company, ClearviewAI". Forbes Australia. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  6. ^ a b Hill, Kashmir (18 January 2020). "The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  7. ^ "The person behind a privacy nightmare has a familiar face". SFChronicle.com. 22 January 2020. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  8. ^ "The person behind a privacy nightmare has a familiar face". SFChronicle.com. Retrieved 23 January 2020. I wrote about Ton-That in February 2009 ("scathingly," Hill writes), when he was living in San Francisco, developing first Facebook and then iPhone apps. He made the news for creating ViddyHo, a website that tricked users into sharing access to their Gmail accounts — a hacking technique known as "phishing" — and then spammed their contacts on the Google Talk chat app. (The episode does not appear on Ton-That's sanitized personal website.)
  9. ^ "Phishing Attacks Increase After Gmail Outage". Redorbit. Retrieved 23 January 2020. San Francisco police are searching for a man who reportedly registered the ViddyHo domain under the name Cam-Hoan Ton-That.
  10. ^ Snyder, Gabriel. "ViddyHo Worm Sweeping Through IM". Gawker. Retrieved 23 January 2020. Here's a bit of a public service announcement: If someone asks you over IM to "Hey check out this video!" they foolishly fell for the just-breaking ViddyHo virus. Don't follow them.
  11. ^ "Internet Worm Linked to San Francisco Man | News | The Harvard Crimson". thecrimson.com. Retrieved 23 January 2020. The site Venture Hacks lists Hoan Ton-That as the sole member of HappyAppy Inc, a relationship that was confirmed by Hoan's lawyer, Andre Gharakhanian of Silicon Legal Strategy.
  12. ^ a b "Clearview AI Says Its Facial Recognition Software Identified A Terrorism Suspect. The Cops Say That's Not True". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 23 January 2020. As it signed deals, Clearview continued to misrepresent its relationship with the NYPD. It used images of the suspect from the Brooklyn bar beating in an October email sent through CrimeDex, a crime alert listserv used by police across the nation. In that email, which BuzzFeed News obtained via a public records request to the Bradenton, Florida, police department, a random man whose image was taken from an Argentine LinkedIn page is identified as a "possible match." His name, however, does not match the name of the person who turned himself in to the NYPD.
  13. ^ "Quick, cheap to make and loved by police – facial recognition apps are on the rise". The Guardian. 25 January 2020.
  14. ^ "This man says he's stockpiling billions of our photos". CNN Business. 10 February 2020.
  15. ^ "Google, YouTube, Venmo and LinkedIn send cease-and-desist letters to facial recognition app that helps law enforcement". CBS News. 5 February 2020.
  16. ^ a b Luke O'Brien (7 April 2020). "Far-Right Extremists Helped Create The World's Most Powerful Facial Recognition Technology". HuffPost. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  17. ^ Tom McKay. "Creepy Face Recognition Firm Clearview AI Sure Has a Lot of Ties to the Far Right". Gizmodo. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Clearview AI CEO disavows white nationalism after exposé on alt-right ties".
  19. ^ "New facial recognition tech 'loved' by law enforcement: Clearview AI CEO". Fox Business. 19 February 2020.
  20. ^ "Clearview to rely on First Amendment to defend its face-tracking tech".
  21. ^ "Clearview AI's biometric photo database deemed illegal in the EU, but only partial deletion ordered".
  22. ^ Dave, Paresh; Dastin, Jeffrey (14 March 2022). "Exclusive: Ukraine has started using Clearview AI's facial recognition during war". Reuters. Retrieved 20 May 2022.