Controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI has found its way onto the receiving end of yet another fine, and as a result faces the prospect of wiping out the much-publicized gains from it’s previous funding round.
This latest fine, issued by Italy’s privacy watchdog, follows an investigation by Italian data protection authority Garante that concluded that Clearview’s now notorious database of 10 billion images includes the faces of Italians and residents of Italy. In addition to the fine that has been issued, Clearview will be ordered to delete any facial biometric data in its possession that belongs to Italian nationals.
Since busting into the spotlight following a January 2020 front page story in The New York Times that revealed the startup’s database of faces was generated by scraping popular sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, Clearview has seen no shortage of bad publicity.
However, despite several controversies — which include its client list being stolen following a security breach, the revelation that it targeted law enforcement agencies around the world to sell its facial recognition database and solution, being on the receiving end of BIPA lawsuits, and being banned from some countries entirely — the New York-based company is still looking to aggressively expand, with a report from The Washington Post saying the company recently told its investors that it expects its database to grow to include 100 billion photos within the next 12 months.
The company is facing oppositon at home as well, however, with prominent Democratic Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley authoring a recent letter to the Department of Homeland Security putting pressure on the nation’s federal agencies to discontinue their use of Clearview’s services.
“Clearview AI reportedly scrapes billions of photos from social media sites without permission from or notice to the pictured individual,” wrote the letter’s authors. “In conjunction with the company’s facial recognition capabilities, this trove of personal information is capable of fundamentally dismantling Americans’ expectation that they can move, assemble, or simply appear in public without being identified.”
March 15 2022 — by Tony Bitzionis