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Clearview AI Faces A £7.5m Fine In UK Over Privacy Concerns

Data Privacy AH April 2019
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The UK privacy regulator has imposed a £7.5 million ($9.4 million) fine on Clearview AI over collecting people’s images and breaching data privacy laws.

Clearview AI is a US-headquartered facial recognition company that works with law enforcement agencies and provides facial recognition technology to them. The company reportedly collected photos from the web and social media and stored them in its database. Then, it allowed law enforcement agencies to upload a photo and match it with the images stored in the database.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says the move by Clearview AI breaches UK data protection laws. Also, the company should stop collecting and exploiting UK residents’ photos. All previously stored data from UK people should either be removed.

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“The company not only enables identification of those people but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service. That is unacceptable.” John Edwards, the UK information commissioner, said.

Clearview is no longer operating in the UK, but it still uses UK residents’ data

According to Clearview, they have stored more than 20 billion facial images of people globally. They use social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as suppliers. Clearview has collected the photos without the owners’ permission and social platforms knowing.

Edwards continued, “People expect that their personal information will be respected, regardless of where in the world their data is being used.”

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Of course, Clearview doesn’t provide UK law enforcement agencies with facial recognition software anymore. The Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defense, and the National Crime Agency were Clearview clients in the UK.

However, Clearview still has millions of photos of UK residents in its database. Its also providing services to other countries. This means the other countries’ law enforcement agencies will have access to the UK residents’ photos.

In response to allegations, Clearview AI chief executive Hoan Ton-That said, “I am deeply disappointed that the UK Information Commissioner has misinterpreted my technology and intentions. I am disheartened by the misinterpretation of Clearview AI’s technology to society.”

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Ton-That also said they “collect only public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law.”

The UK is not the first country to impose fines on Clearview AI. The company has previously faced heavy fines in France, Italy, and Australia over similar allegations. In 2020, Clearview AI promised to stop providing its software to non–law enforcement entities and private companies.