Clearview AI, a privately owned company based in the US, has been involved in many suits in the last couple years that highlight the maturing of global data protection laws, as well as the advancement of biometric information identification technologies. Clearview has the largest known database of over 30 billion facial images. Its website states that its images originate from public-only web sources, including news media, mugshot websites, and public social media.
In May of 2022, Clearview settled a suit that was originally filed in 2020 by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit alleged that Clearview violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), by capturing and using Illinois resident faceprints without their knowledge and permission. The settlement terms included a national ban on Clearview selling or giving away access to its facial recognition database to private companies or individuals with the exception of some government agencies. However, Clearview plans to circumvent this ban by selling its algorithm to private companies in the US instead of selling access to its database.
This year, data protection authorities in Italy, Greece, and France, independently issued three distrinct 20 million euro fines against Clearview AI for illegal data collection. This is the maximum financial penalty the company could receive under GDPR Article 83. The authorities found that the GDPR clearly applied because the software monitored the behaviour of people in those countries. In addition to the fine, all three countries banned Clearview from collecting and processing personal data from citizens of the countries, and ordered Clearview to delete any data on its citizens that it had collected prior to the enforcement action.
In 2021, regulators in Canada and Australia similarly found that Clearview activities violated local data protection laws. Together, these decisions and others around the globe have weakened Clearview AI’s foothold as it attempted to solidify its global dominance in the facial recognition market.