The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Clearview AI have reached a settlement wherein Clearview AI will limit sales of its faceprint database.
The contentious facial recognition company made headlines when it harvested billions of photos of people from the internet without permission. The corporation has thus been the target of multiple legal actions and the wrath of international regulators.
The ACLU brought a lawsuit against Clearview AI in 2020, alleging that the software had breached the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). This law applies to Illinois and mandates that businesses doing business there have people’s express consent before collecting their biometric information.
According to Rebecca Glenberg, staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois, “The ACLU of Illinois led the effort to enact BIPA—a groundbreaking statute to deal with the growing use of sensitive biometric information without any notice and meaningful consent—fourteen years ago.”
“BIPA was designed to prevent the exact type of wide-ranging monitoring that the Clearview app permits.”
Although the lawsuit is still pending, a written settlement has been struck between the parties. Clearview AI has consented to limit the selling of its faceprint database to companies and other private entities nationwide as part of the plan.
Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, stated that “this settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse” by requiring Clearview to abide by Illinois’ groundbreaking biometric privacy law not just in the state but across the nation.
People’s biometric IDs can no longer be treated by Clearview as an unfettered source of revenue. It would be prudent for other businesses to pay attention, and for other states to adopt robust biometric privacy legislation in the wake of Illinois’ example.
Illinois residents will have the most safeguards available to them. For five years, Clearview AI will not be permitted to grant any private company in the state or local public entity access to its database.
In addition, Clearview AI intends to exclude photos originating from Illinois. Residents can upload their photo and Clearview will prevent its software from matching their face, as not all photographs will be captured by this. To promote this functionality, Clearview AI will spend $50,000 on internet advertisements.
The president and CEO of the Chicago-based non-profit Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, said, “This settlement is a big win for the most vulnerable people in Illinois.”
“Much of our work focuses on safeguarding the safety of victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse as well as defending their right to privacy. Before this agreement, Clearview disregarded the possibility that dangers to their safety and dangerous situations could arise from the improper use of biometric information. That is no longer the case today.
Outside of Illinois, American citizens are not afforded as strong of protections.
Access to Clearview AI’s massive database can still be sold to government agencies, including law enforcement. The business said that police use of its facial recognition technology had grown by 26% following the US Capitol raid.
The business would be prohibited from providing private businesses with access to its whole database, though. Although buyers would have to provide their datasets to train the software, Clearview AI could still sell its product.
“This represents one of the biggest victories for consumers to date—there is a battle being fought in courtrooms and statehouses across the country about who is going to control biometrics—Big Tech or the people being tracked by them,” stated J. Eli Wade-Scott of Edelson PC.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ordered Clearview AI to stop processing personal data on British individuals and destroy whatever data it possessed, with a potential fine of little over £17 million. The order was issued in November 2021.
The OAIC came to the same conclusion as the ICO earlier that month and directed Clearview AI to stop collecting biometric data on Australians and destroy any that it had already gathered.