Facial Recognition Developer Clearview AI Agrees to Limit Database Sales

Clearview AI, lawsuit, biometrics

Facial recognition software maker Clearview AI has settled a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and will limit access to its face database in the U.S. to government agencies rather than a myriad of American companies, The New York Times reported Monday (May 9).

The case being settled is a rebuke to the company’s reported privacy violations.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in May 2020 for groups representing victims of domestic violence, undocumented immigrants and sex workers, accusing Clearview of violating a state law prohibiting private entities from using citizens’ identities without consent.

The settlement means the company won’t be able to sell its database of around 20 billion facial photos to private businesses and individuals. However, it will be allowed to sell them to federal and state agencies.

The report said Clearview will have access to an exception and be able to provide its database to U.S. banks and financial institutions because of a part of Illinois law where the case was filed. However, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said there was no plan to provide the database to anyone but the government.

The startup had built its software through scraping photos from the web and popular social media sites, then selling them to local police and government agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The tech had been deemed illegal in various places like Canada, Australia and some parts of Europe. Clearview is also facing a $22.6 million fine in Britain and a fine for €20 million from Italy’s data protection agency.

PYMNTS wrote that earlier this year, Ton-That said his goal for 2022 was to “ink deals with the U.S. government” and expand his team by one-third.

Read more: Facial Recognition Company Clearview AI Seeks Gov’t Deals Despite Regulatory Woes

He also said Pennsylvania-based computational physicist Terence Liu is behind some of Clearview’s algorithms — the first time a member of the tech team for the company had been revealed.