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

This is a major decision in the fight for data protection. Monday, May 9, after two years of legal battle against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Clearview AI accepted to no longer sell its biometric database to private companies. The deal has yet to be 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 other states’ law enforcement agencies, will still be allowed to do so.

The association criticized Clearview AI, a company specializing in facial recognition, for not complying with Illinois laws on the protection of sensitive data, in particular the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits companies from sharing certain data, such as face or fingerprints, without the consent of the person concerned.

Clearview AI will also have to maintain the form opt-out that allows Illinois residents to opt out of photo search, regardless of who the customer is. An operation, communication included, encrypted at $50,000 in the deal. The form will also be available in California, where similar data protection regulations apply.

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

“It’s a huge victory” , said Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, president of the Latin Women in Action association, which helps victims of domestic violence. Beyond the question of consent, she points out the danger of the collection of photos and other personal data as carried out by ClearView AI, which could be used for bad purposes, in particular by stalkers or even ex-spouses.

However, the firm argues that it is a service allowing “to make communities safer and enable law enforcement to solve crimes”. In the hunting board proudly displayed by the company, the capture in 2020 of an Argentine child criminal: thanks to a blurred photo of the criminal, FBI investigators were able to find other photos of him in the Clearview AI database, before falling on his Facebook account and to finally stop him. It also helped identify rioters during the Capitol uprising in January 2021.

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

Other countries are following suit

To constitute its database composed of 20 billion snapshots, 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 in order to increase its activities. With its investors, it would have affirmed to work to extend its database to 100 billion photos in a way “that almost everyone on earth is identifiable”. A gigantic file in which many citizens find themselves, 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 action to protect their citizens. On December 16, the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL) given notice Clearview AI to delete the data collected in France and to cease its activities in 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 American company had answered do not own “establishment in France or in the European Union. It has no customers and does not engage in any activity that would otherwise mean that it 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 have to give in to the judges. In 2020, Facebookthen attacked in Illinois for its facial recognition system, had agreed to pay 650 million dollars.

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

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