CHICAGO ( Associated Press) — Facial recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to ban the use of its vast collection of facial images to settle allegations that it collected photos of people without their consent.
The company in a legal filing on Monday agreed to permanently block access to its Faces database from selling it to private businesses or individuals around the US, which could be doing what with its growing trove of billions of images. , imposes a limit on it. Pulled from elsewhere on social media and the Internet.
The settlement — which must be approved by a federal judge in Chicago — will end a 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups over alleged violations of the Illinois digital privacy law.
Clearview is also agreeing to stop making its database available to the Illinois state government and local police departments for five years. The New York-based company will continue to provide services to federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other law enforcement agencies and government contractors outside of Illinois.
“It’s a big victory,” said Linda Xochital Tortolero, president of Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Ación, which works with survivors of gender-based violence and was a plaintiff in the case along with the ACLU and other groups.
Among the concerns raised by Tortoleiro’s group was that photos posted to social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram – and turned into “faceprints” by Clearview – could be used to track a person’s whereabouts by stalkers, ex-partners or stalkers. be used by companies. and social activity.
A lead attorney defending Clearview against the lawsuit said the company is “delighted to put this lawsuit behind it.”
A statement from Floyd Abrams, an attorney known for taking on high-profile free speech cases, said “the settlement does not require any material changes to the company’s business model or deter it from conducting any “
Abrams noted that the company was not already providing its services to police agencies in Illinois and agreed to a 5-year moratorium “to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal dispute with the ACLU and others”. Hui.
Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act allows consumers to sue companies that don’t get permission before harvesting data like facial and fingerprints. Another privacy lawsuit over the same Illinois law forced Facebook last year to agree to pay $650 million to settle charges that photos used face-tagging and other biometric data without the permission of its users.
“It shows that we can fight these companies when they are taking this type of action,” Tortoleiro said of the Clearview settlement on Monday. “It also highlights the fact that there are many ways in which social media — and the technology companies that collect such information — can be harmful to Americans.”
The settlement document states that Clearview continues to refute and dispute the claims brought by the ACLU and other plaintiffs. But even before Monday’s settlement, the case continues to veil some of the company’s controversial business practices.
Hoan Ton-That, co-founder and CEO of Clearview AI, told the Associated Press in April that the company is looking to verify the identities of people using facial recognition to compete with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft for a new “agreed- based” was preparing to launch a commercial product.
The new venture will use Clearview’s algorithms to verify a person’s face, but it will not include its trove of roughly 20 billion images, which Ton-That said is now reserved for law enforcement use. This marks one of the first changes in Clearview’s business history as it pitched the technology for a variety of commercial uses.
Regulators from Australia to Canada, France and Italy have taken measures to prevent Clearview from dragging people’s faces into its facial recognition engine without their consent. So are tech giants like Google and Facebook. Earlier this year a group of US lawmakers warned that “Clearview AI’s technology could eliminate public anonymity in the United States.”
O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.