#Privacy: Clearview AI, a “nightmare scenario” for privacy

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a class action lawsuit against facial recognition firm Clearview AI. 

Filed last week in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Illinois, the lawsuit alleges that the company is in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) and represents an unprecedented threat to security and safety.

On its corporate website, Clearview pitches itself as a tool used by law enforcement agencies to track and identify perpetrators and victims of crime, whilst exonerating the innocent. However, ACLU say otherwise, claiming that the company has been illegally collecting and storing data on Illinois citizens without their consent, to which access to the data is then sold to private companies and law enforcement. 

“Unbeknownst the the public, this company has offered up this massive faceprint database to private companies, police, federal agencies, and wealthy individuals, allowing them to secretly track and target whomever they wished using face recognition technology,” explained ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler wrote in a blog post 

Wessler went on to add that the technology threatens the lives of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, undocumented immigrants, people of colour, and other vulnerable communities.

“Clearview has created the nightmare scenario that we’ve long feared, and has crossed the ethical bounds that many companies have refused to even attempt.” 

Under BIPA companies collecting, capturing, or obtaining an Illinois resident’s biometric identifier, are to notify the individual and obtain their written consent.

The lawsuit calls for Clearview to immediately delete faceprints obtained from Illinois residents without consent and to stop capturing new faceprints unless it complies with BIPA.

A Vermont attorney has also filed a lawsuit against the company stating that it has been collecting photos of Vermonters available online and using AI to “map” faces. 

“I am disturbed by this practice, particularly the practice of collecting and selling children’s facial recognition data,” Attorney General Donovan said. “This practice is unscrupulous, unethical, and contrary to public policy. I will continue to fight for the privacy of Vermonters, particularly our most vulnerable.”

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