The US company Clearview gives up selling its facial recognition tools to companies

The US company Clearview gives up selling its facial recognition tools to companies

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Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That demonstrates his facial recognition system with his own photos (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

This is an important decision in the fight for data protection. On Monday, May 9, after a two-year legal battle against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Clearview AI Accepted stop selling your biometric database to private companies. The agreement has not yet been validated by a Chicago County judge.

It also provides that the State of Illinois – in which the firm was attacked – and its police will no longer be able to access it for five years. On the other hand, federal services, such as Customs and Border Protection, as well as law enforcement agencies from other states, will still be able to do so.

The association criticized Clearview AI, a company specializing in facial recognition, for failing to comply with Illinois laws on the protection of sensitive data, particularly the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits companies from sharing certain data, such as face or fingerprints, without authorization. consent of the interested party.

Clearview AI will also need to maintain the opt-out form that allows Illinois residents to opt out of photo search, regardless of the affected customer. An operation, including communication, cost $50,000 in the deal. The form will also be available in California, where similar data protection rules apply.

To go further: Article reserved for our subscribers Clearview AI, the New York facial recognition startup that sucked up your photos

respect for privacy

“This agreement shows that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse.welcomed Nathan Freed Wessler, one of the ACLU’s deputy directors. Congress should act, and until it can, more states should pick up the slack. »

“It’s a great victory” said Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, president of the Mujeres Latinas en Acción association, which helps victims of domestic violence. Beyond the issue of consent, she points out the danger of ClearView AI’s collection of photos and other personal data, which could be misused, particularly by stalkers or even ex-spouses.

However, the firm argues that it is a service that allows “to make communities safer and allow law enforcement to solve crimes”. On the hunting list that the company proudly displays, the capture in 2020 of an Argentine delinquent child: thanks to a blurred photo of the delinquent, FBI investigators were able to find other photos of the latter, before finding his Facebook account and finally arrest him. He also helped identify protesters during the uprising on Capitol Hill in January 2021.

read also The CNIL gives formal notice to the facial recognition company Clearview

Other countries are following suit

To build its database of 20 billion photos, Clearview AI scans social networks like Facebook or Instagram, and more generally the Internet, to retrieve all available photos. According to information from Washington Post, the company recently raised ten million dollars to increase its activities. With his investors he would have claimed to work to expand his database to 100,000 million photos “that almost everyone on earth is identifiable”. A gigantic archive in which many citizens are found, without even knowing it.

Today, it is the legality of this process that the State of Illinois is questioning, and it is not the only one. Canada, Italy, the UK and France are trying to take steps to protect their citizens. On December 16, the National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) formally notified Clearview AI to delete the data collected in France and cease its activities on the territory. She judged that the company did not have ” a legitimate interest in collecting and using this data, in particular with regard to the particularly intrusive and massive nature of the process”. The US company responded that it had no “establishment in France or in the European Union. You do not have clients and you do not engage in any activity that would otherwise mean you would be subject to the [règlement général sur la protection des données] GDPR ».

In this battle for data protection, Clearview AI is not the first to bow before the judges. In 2020, Facebook, then attacked in Illinois for its facial recognition system, agreed to pay $650 million.

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