The Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of “survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, undocumented immigrants, and other vulnerable communities”, as these individuals are part of a segment of society that are more likely to face jail time, stalking or deportation as a result of Clearview’s services, the organization said.
“Face recognition technology offers a surveillance capability unlike any other technology in the past. It makes it dangerously easy to identify and track us at protests, AA meetings, counseling sessions, political rallies, religious gatherings, and more,” Nathan Freed Wessler, one of the ACLU attorneys handling the case, wrote in the filing.
“[Clearview AI’s system] empowers abusive ex-partners and serial harassers, exploitative companies, and ICE agents to track and target domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, undocumented immigrants, and other vulnerable communities,” he added.
Clearview AI has found itself the subject of scrutiny since a New York Times front page story in January revealed it was selling its facial recognition technology as a service to law enforcement agencies around the world. In the months since that story came out, Clearview has been the subject of a number of legal actions, from cease-and-desists filed by Youtube and Google, to a separate BIPA lawsuit filed by the father of a minor in Illinois.
In its defence, Clearview claims the ACLU lawsuit is an affront to its constitutional rights, and the company has also frequently likened what it does to search engines like Google.
“In press statements, Clearview has tried to claim its actions are somehow protected by the First Amendment,” Wessler said. This would be true if the billions of face prints the company’s algorithm has scraped from the internet were only used in for a digital photo album. What the First Amendment (and in Illinois specifically, BIPA) does not permit is for Clearview to capture an individual’s faceprint and unique biometric data without consent.
Though under BIPA the plaintiffs are able to receive up to $5,000 per infraction, the ACLU is not seeking any monetary compensation. Instead, the group is asking that Clearview AI “delete the faceprints it illegally captured and also stop capturing them in the future.”
May 29, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis