Clearview AI settles with ACLU on facial recognition database sales

Clearview AI has promised to stop selling its controversial facial recognition technology to most private US companies as part of a proposed settlement this week with the ACLU.

The New York-based startup made headlines in 2020 for scraping billions of images from public social media pages. These photographs were used to create a facial recognition database system, allowing the company to link future snapshots of people to their past and current online profiles.

Clearview’s software can, for example, display a face from a CCTV, and if it recognizes the person from its database, it can return not only the URLs of that person’s social media pages, from where they were first seen, but also copies that allow that person to be identified, traced and contacted.

That same year, the ACLU sued the company, claiming it violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which requires organizations operating in the U.S. state to obtain express consent. of its residents to collect their biometric data, including their photographs.

Now both sides have reached a draft settlement [PDF] to end the legal deadlock. As part of this proposed agreement, Clearview has agreed to stop giving or selling access to its database system to most private companies and organizations across the United States. We say more because there are caveats. In addition, the agreement must be accepted by the courts.

Under the proposed settlement, Clearview cannot share its database with any Illinois state or local entity for five years, or with any private state entity, and will allow residents to opt out of the database. They can submit a photo to the company, and it will prevent its facial recognition software from finding matches for their face. In addition to this, Clearview will work on filtering images that have been taken or downloaded from Illinois. The company will pay $50,000 to pay for online advertisements informing residents of their ability to opt out.

Beyond Illinois, the settlement permanently blunts Clearview’s ability to do business with private companies and organizations across America: it can, theoretically, sell customers a version of its recognition software. untrained facial on the database, but she can’t provide them with her huge database. This self-imposed ban does not extend to public entities, which means law enforcement and local and federal government agencies and their contractors can use its giant database, except in the state of Illinois over the next five years.

Interestingly, Clearview also agreed to “remove all face vectors from the Clearview App that existed before Clearview ceased providing or selling access to the Clearview App to individuals and entities.” These so-called “old face vectors” are encoded from the billions of images the company has collected. Clearview, however, is permitted to create or recreate facial vectors subject to the new restrictions.

Clearview will also no longer be allowed to offer free trials of its facial recognition software to individual police officers without their bosses’ approval. As part of the settlement, the biz does not admit any liability issues. He claimed that he has already limited his dealings in America to law enforcement, so this deal is just a formality.

“Clearview AI’s position regarding sales to private entities remains unchanged,” said the startup’s CEO, Hoan Thon-That. The register in a report.

“We would only sell to private entities in a BIPA-compliant manner. Our database is only provided to government agencies for the purpose of solving crimes. We have notified the courts of our intent to provide our unbiased facial recognition algorithm to other business customers, without the database, in a consent-based manner.

“Today, facial recognition is used to unlock your phone, verify your identity, board a plane, gain access to a building, and even for payments. This regulation does not prevent Clearview AI from selling its algorithm without bias, without its database, to commercial entities on the basis of consent, which is BIPA compliant.”

Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, praised the strong privacy protections established in the state of Illinois, where this lawsuit unfolded.

“By requiring Clearview to comply with Illinois’ groundbreaking biometric privacy law, not just in the state, but nationwide, this regulation demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse,” he said in a statement.

“Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unlimited source of profit. Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead by enacting strict laws on biometric privacy.” ®

Maria H. Underwood