Clearview AI, the maker of facial recognition software, on Monday upheld a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and agreed to restrict its face database in the United States, mostly government agencies, and deny most American companies access to it.
Under the agreement, filed in an Illinois state court, Clearview will not sell its database, which it says contains more than 20 billion types of photos, to individuals and businesses across the country. But the company can mostly still sell this database to federal and state agencies.
The deal is the latest blow to a New York-based startup that has created face recognition software by removing photos from websites and popular sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Clearview then sold its software to local police departments and government agencies, including the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But its technology has been deemed illegal in Canada, Australia and parts of Europe for violating privacy laws. Clearview also faces a temporary $ 22.6 million fine in the UK, as well as a € 20 million fine from the Italian Data Protection Agency.
“Clearview can no longer consider unique biometric identifiers of humans as an unlimited source of profit,” said Nathan Fried Wessler, ACLU Deputy Director of Speech, Privacy and Technology, in a statement on the settlement. “Other companies would be wise to consider, and other states should follow the leadership of Illinois in enforcing strong biometric privacy laws.”
Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment expert hired by Clearview to protect the company’s right to collect publicly available information and make it searchable, said the company was “delighted to have left this lawsuit behind.”
“To avoid delays, costly and distractions with ACLU and others, Clearview AI has agreed to continue its services to Illinois law enforcement for a period of time,” he said.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in May 2020 on behalf of groups representing victims of domestic violence, undocumented immigrants, and sex workers. The group has accused Clearview of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, a state law that prohibits individuals from using citizens’ body identifiers, algorithmic maps of their faces, without their consent.
“This is a huge victory for the most vulnerable people in Illinois,” said Linda Xchitl Tortolero, plaintiff and head of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. “For many Latinos, for many who are undocumented and have a low level of IT or social media literacy, understanding how technology can be used against you is a big challenge.
One of Clearview’s sales methods was to offer free trial versions to potential customers, including private businesses, government employees and police officers. Under the agreement, the company will have a more formal process around trial accounts, ensuring that individual police officers have permission from employers to use a face recognition application.
Clearview is also prohibited from selling to any Illinois entity, private or public, for five years as part of the contract. He can then resume doing business with local or state law enforcement agencies, Mr. Wessler said.
With a major exception, Clearview will still be able to deliver the database to US banks and financial institutions. “At this time for entities other than government agencies.”
Payment does not mean that Clearview cannot sell any product to corporations. It will still be able to sell companies a face recognition algorithm without a 20 billion image database. Its algorithm helps to match the faces of people with any database it offers to the customer. “There are many other uses based on Clearview technology that the company has the potential to bring to a wider market,” said Mr. Ton-Tet.
As part of the settlement, Clearview acknowledged no liability and agreed to pay $ 250,000 in attorney fees to the plaintiffs. The settlement is subject to approval by an Illinois state judge.