As part of a legal settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, the infamous facial recognition company Clearview AI has agreed to permanently halt sales of its massive biometric database to all private companies and individuals in the United States. According to court records, this is part of a legal settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union.
The announcement on Monday brings to an end a two-year court battle initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union and privacy advocacy organisations against the corporation in May 2020 over charges that the company had violated BIPA, the 2008 Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. This statute mandates firms to seek permission before harvesting a person’s biometric information — fingerprints, gait metrics, iris scans, and faceprints, for example — and enables consumers to sue the companies that do not obtain permission before harvesting their information.
According to Rebecca Glenberg, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, “Fourteen years ago, the ACLU of Illinois spearheaded a fight to pass BIPA – a revolutionary measure to deal with the expanding use of sensitive biometric information without any notice and without meaningful permission.” Clearview’s app, for example, was designed to permit the type of broad-based monitoring that BIPA was supposed to curtail. The agreement reached today is the first step in ensuring that Clearview conforms with the law. This should serve as a strong signal to other state legislatures, encouraging them to pass similar legislation.”
In addition to the worldwide restriction on private party sales, Clearview will not provide any of its services to Illinois local and state law enforcement agencies (as well as any other private parties) for the next five years, according to the company. “This implies that Clearview will be unable to take use of the BIPA’s exception for government contractors during that period,” the ACLU points out, but federal agencies, state and local law enforcement departments, and other organisations outside of Illinois would not be affected.
That’s not all, either. Clearview must also terminate its free trial programme for police officers, set up and maintain an opt-out website for Illinois citizens, and spend $50,000 on internet advertising to achieve compliance with the settlement. Before it can go into force, the settlement must still be authorised by a federal court of appeals.
With the requirement that Clearview comply with Illinois’ groundbreaking biometric privacy law not only in the state, but also across the country, this settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse, according to the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project’s Nathan Freed Wessler in a statement released on Monday. It is no longer permissible for Clearview to treat people’s unique biometric IDs as an unfettered source of profit.” The lessons learned should be shared with other businesses, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead in establishing robust biometric privacy legislation.”
The agreement reached on Monday is the latest in a long series of privacy lawsuits and regulatory proceedings brought against the corporation by consumers. A charge of €20 million was levied on Clearview AI by Italian authorities in March, while a fine of £17 million was levied against the company by UK regulators in November, both for breaches of national data privacy rules. Since 2020, Australia has been examining the company’s scraping techniques, and at the moment, a tiny number of US senators is advocating for a blanket prohibition on federal agencies utilising Clearview’s services. However, considering the fact that the firm bragged in February that it had gathered 100 billion photographs in its “index of faces,” the right to anonymity in the United States remained gravely threatened.