Another international privacy regulator is cracking down on Clearview AI. The company’s latest legal woes originate in France, where the Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés (CNIL) has ruled that Clearview’s practices violate the European Union’s (EU) GDPR data protection laws. As a result, the CNIL has ordered Clearview to delete the personal information of French citizens stored in its databases.
Clearview could face financial penalties under EU law if it fails to comply with the order. In that regard, France’s decision echoes that of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which has stated that the company could face fines of up to £17 million for violating the UK’s privacy laws. It could also create more complications for Clearview moving forward. The CNIL’s authority is limited to France, but the GDPR laws that the ruling (and the fines) are based on extend throughout the EU. That means that any fines that Clearview gets hit with in France could be replicated elsewhere if other EU states follow the CNIL’s lead.
On that front, privacy advocates have already filed complaints against Clearview AI in Greece, Italy, and Austria. The Canadian and Australian Information Commissioners have also ordered Clearview to suspend its operations (and delete citizen data) in their respective countries. However, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner does not have the authority to impose fines, which could make the EU cases more immediately concerning to a company worried about the bottom line.
For its part, the CNIL specifically ruled that Clearview collected and used people’s biometric data without obtaining proper consent, and without establishing a legal basis for doing so. The agency has given Clearview two months to comply with its order and stop processing the data of French citizens, at which point the company could start facing escalating penalties.
In its response, Clearview argued that it does not need to follow European laws because it does not currently have offices or paying customers in France or the European Union. Interpol’s Crimes Against Children unit (which is based in France) has nevertheless performed more than 300 searches with Clearview tech, while the French Ministry of the Interior has conducted more than 400. The Crimes Against Children unit acknowledged those searches, but emphasized that they were carried out with free trial software that Clearview gave to law enforcement agencies.
January 3, 2022 – by Eric Weiss