The American Civil Liberties Union is suing disreputable facial recognition firm Clearview AI for violation of the Illinois Biometric Identity Privacy Act (BIPA), arguing that the corporation unlawfully obtained and retained data on Illinois residents without their permission or consent, and then sold access to the technologies to law enforcement and private companies. You will read the entire report here.
Clearview AI achieved notoriety earlier this year thanks to media coverage, including a high-profile January investigation by The New York Times, which reported that its technology is highly reliable and in common use by both law enforcement authorities and private sector businesses. The reason the company’s method is successful is that Clearview scraped photos and other imagery from social media networks against the laws of those websites, resulting in a database of over 3 billion pictures that are then compared to a submitted object using advanced machine learning qualified algorithms.
Over the last five months, internet firms have submitted several cease and desist requests to Clearview, but it is unknown if the organization has actually followed demands to delete data from the accounts and posts of public social networks. The company responded to the criticism by claiming it would never offer its tool to the public for individual use and more recently said it would stop selling its technology to private firms and focus on law enforcement only.
One path that can prove useful in countering Clearview’s actions is BIPA, the Illinois Privacy Act, and one of the few pieces of US law that protects facial recognition technology from abuse. It’s the same law that pushed Facebook to a $550 million settlement earlier this year over its use of unauthorized face recognition on photographs uploaded to its social network. The ACLU says “Clearview’s behavior explicitly breach BIPA,” which allows a corporation to notify people and obtain written permission anytime every biometric information is obtained and processed for some reason, be it a face or a fingerprint.
The company has said it will no longer collect data from Illinois-based IP addresses, take additional action to discourage Illinois residents from collecting data and create an opt-out mechanism, but what steps are not explicit. In seeking to hold records about citizens in Illinois, it suggests that Clearview could also be liable to BIPA, allowing the ACLU an opportunity to file another complaint.
The ACLU says it’s working with its local Illinois branch and the law firm Edelson PC, and it’s seeking a court order Clearview to erase all the biometric data it has collected on Illinois residents and to stop gathering all additional data so it can comply with BIPA’s consent rules.