Clearview AI fined $9.4 million for facial scraping

The British data protection body has fined facial recognition company Clearview AI £7.5m ($9.43m), as well as ordering it to cease scraping UK residents’ personal data and erase the material already collected.

The New York-based US company claims to have more than 20 billion facial images in databases, all taken from social networks like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The scraped material feeds a facial recognition tool, not yet patented by the company. Basically, the machine learning software tries to match the collected face images with the results of the massive image database — the largest in the world of its kind and negotiated with law enforcement agencies and other clients around the world, according to Clearview. .

Image: Gam-Ol/Pixabay

The threat was turned into a fine on Monday, as the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) concluded an investigation launched in 2020 in partnership with the Australian Information Commissioner, into Clearview AI’s possible breach of the Australian Privacy Act. or the UK Data Protection Act 2018.

The amount of the fine imposed is less than half of the more than £17 million (more than US$21.3 million) initially envisaged. In addition to the fine, the company received an enforcement notice ordering it to stop gathering data and to delete all British resident information from the company’s systems.

“The company not only allows these people to be identified, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a business service. This is unacceptable. That’s why we’ve been taking action to protect people in the UK, both by fining the company and issuing a notice of execution,” said John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, of the action.

According to information from the website The Register, the ICO said that Clearview had illegally requested “additional personal information” (including photos) when the public approached it wanting to know if the image was in the company’s database. “This may have acted as a disincentive to individuals who wish to object to their data being collected and used,” the regulator noted.

Clearview AI fined $9.4 million for facial scraping

Image: pixinoo/

Clearview AI: if images are public and are in Google search, it can be in ours

In defense, the head of Clearview AI previously said that the images, mostly uploaded by the data owners themselves, were publicly available, searchable, comparing the action with Google itself. “If it’s public and it’s available, and it can be inside Google’s search engine, it can also be inside ours,” noted CEO Hoan Ton-That’s at the time.

Upon receiving the fine, a Jenner and Block partner Lee Wolosky said in a statement that “Clearview AI is not subject to ICO jurisdiction, and Clearview AI does not do business in the UK at this time.”

In a statement, Ton-That added that he was “deeply disappointed that the UK Information Commissioner has misinterpreted my technology and my intentions.”

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