Clearview AI has indicated that it will be cancelling all contracts with private entities, and will instead make its platform available exclusively to government and law enforcement agencies moving forward. The news comes courtesy of documents filed in Illinois federal court, where the company is being sued for alleged violations of the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). In light of that lawsuit, Clearview also indicated that it is cancelling all contracts, government or otherwise, in the state of Illinois.
The decision seems to have been made to head off a potential injunction that would prevent Clearview from using the biometric data of past and current Illinois residents. Since it is voluntarily suspending is activities, Clearview argues that the official injunction is unnecessary.
However, the news is unlikely to alleviate the concerns of the company’s critics, especially given the misleading claims the company has made in the past. Clearview initially marketed itself as a law enforcement tool, but leaked documents have since revealed that numerous private entities – including Macy’s, Walmart, and Wells Fargo – have taken advantage of the service.
In any case, privacy advocates have expressed as much concern about Clearview’s government relationships as they have about its private dealings, arguing that the public use of the company’s platform would represent a significant violation of people’s civil liberties. The backlash has only intensified since Clearview revealed that it has been in talks with government agencies about a possible contact tracing program to combat COVID-19.
“These promises do little to address concerns about Clearview’s reckless and dangerous business model,” said ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler. “There is no guarantee these steps will actually protect Illinois residents. And, even if there were, making promises about one state does nothing to end Clearview’s exploitation of people’s faceprints across the country.”
“Instead of taking real steps to address the harms of face recognition surveillance, Clearview is doubling down on the sale of its face surveillance system to law enforcement and continues to fuel large scale violations of Americans’ privacy and due process rights.”
Clearview scraped sites like Facebook and Google to acquire the 3 billion images in its database, but did so without the knowledge and consent of those platforms or the people depicted in the various images. The company has received cease and desist orders from some of the biggest names among those platforms, and is currently facing additional legal action in California, New York, and Vermont.
May 8, 2020 – by Eric Weiss