Facial Recognition Giant Agrees to Stop Selling Info to Private Entities

Clearview AI, a facial recognition company with a database of more than 10 billion people, agreed to stop selling its product to businesses, agencies, and other private actors in a legal settlement on Monday.

In the original lawsuit, Clearview AI — which bills itself as the “World’s Largest Facial Network” — had allegedly violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), generally recognized as the United States’ strongest data privacy law

The supposed wrongdoing: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along a with a consortium of civil society groups, claimed that Clearview AI was “illegally scraping images of Illinois residents” without their knowledge or consent.

“By requiring Clearview to comply with Illinois’ pathbreaking biometric privacy law not just in the state, but across the country, this settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, a deputy director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, in a statement. 

Wessler added: “Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unrestricted source of profit. Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead in enacting strong biometric privacy laws.” 

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The ACLU-led lawsuit was broached at a state level, since there are currently no federal laws regulating how facial recognition can be developed or deployed.

Clearview AI has quickly become one of the most prominent facial recognition technology companies due to its massive database of scraped images from the Web.

However, business could soon expand exponentially for Clearview, which has reportedly informed investors about its growth projections of 100 billion scans within a year.

As part of the settlement, Clearview AI will be prohibited from providing free or paid access to its database to private companies or individuals nationwide. The facial technology firm also cannot assist government agencies or law enforcement within Illinois jurisdiction for the next five years.

In addition, residents of Illinois will have the option “to block their faces” from appearing in Clearview search results, according to reports.

Clearview AI founder Hoan Ton-That has stated that scraping tools are invaluable for fighting crime. He also maintains the company only sells product lines to law enforcement groups, with deals reportedly involving more than 3,000 agencies. 

However, a BuzzFeed News report also found that Clearview AI had previously worked with private businesses, including major retailers and corporations, such as Walmart and Bank of America.

On its Web site, Clearview’s mission statement reads as follows: 

“Our solutions allow agencies to gain intelligence and disrupt crime by revealing leads, insights, and relationships to help investigators solve both simple and complex crimes, increase officer and public safety, and keep our communities and families safer.”

The Illinois settlement could be a sign of things to come in other parts of America.

California, New York, Vermont, and Virginia have reportedly brought similar lawsuits against Clearview.

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