Embattled and controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI is the subject of a new investigation from privacy watchdogs in Australia and the U.K. over its use of biometric data scraped from images off the internet and then sold to private entities around the world.
The new joint investigation was launched on Thursday, and comes from the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Officer (ICO) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), who say that it will focus on Clearview’s “use of ‘scraped’ data and biometrics of individuals.”
This news comes just days after The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced that it was launching its own investigation into Clearview, along with the provincial privacy authorities of Alberta, Quebec, and British Columbia. Following that news, the company announced that it would be ending all contracts in the country, with CEO Hoan Ton-That saying that Canadians can opt out of its searches but not providing any details on how to do so.
It’s possible that its decision to leave Canada may have spurred the move to investigate in Australia and Britain, however since it came to the world’s attention at the beginning of this year, Clearview has been unable to stay out of the headlines.
Clearview AI has been in the spotlight since a front page story on The New York Times in January revealed that it had been scraping people’s images off of sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter, and using that database to build a facial recognition app that it then sold.
Initially, it was believed that Clearview’s solution was only sold to law enforcement agencies as a criminal identification tool, but following a security breach that exposed its client list, it was discovered that the company had been selling its solution to a wide range of companies and individuals around the world.
Since the Times story ran, Clearview has been the subject of a number of cease and desist suits from the likes of Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and has also found itself on the end of a BIPA lawsuit in Illinois, which prompted it to end its contracts in the state.
The recent protests against institutionalized racial and social injustice sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice and many more have added even more fuel to the fire against what Clearview, for many, seems to represent, especially considering that studies have shown that facial recognition technologies tend to show a clear racial bias against people of color.
July 10, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis