Clearview AI lawsuit: Company broke privacy laws using US citizens' data

The Clearview AI is currently facing a class-action lawsuit as the facial recognition app is an "insidious encroachment" on civil liberties

After the New York-based startup Clearview AI launched the facial recognition app, used by US law enforcement to identify suspects and other people, it sparked a huge outrage among US citizens. As per the reports, this app helps to identify people by comparing photos to a database of images scraped from online database and social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Venmo and YouTube.

As per the new findings, this app can extract private details of an individual and then sells the info to law enforcement agencies. Currently, a lawsuit was filed in Illinois against Clearview AI which has scraped social media networks for people's photos and created one of the biggest facial recognition databases in the world.

The facial recognition app

Last week the New York Times published an exclusive and eye-opening report, revealing how the company, which claimed that the app can identify a person based on a photo, revealing their real name, location and other identifiers, was selling access to "faceprints" and facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies.

The app, whose website claims "Technology to help solve the hardest crimes," has collected and added over three billion photos to the Clearview AI database without the consent of US citizens. After the massive revelation, this week the startup was hit with the first lawsuit.

Galaxy S8 Facial Recognition
Facial recognition (Representational picture)

What does the lawsuit say?

ZDNet reported that Clearview AI has violated Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) which is a law that was implemented to safeguards state residents from having their biometrics data used without their permission. This law claims that companies must have some explicit consent from Illinois residents before collecting their personal information and use those biometric data. In this case, it should be noted that the company has collected all these protected information from the citizen's social media accounts.

The lawsuit reads:

Plaintiff and the Illinois Class retain a significant interest in ensuring that their biometric identifiers and information, which remain in Defendant Clearview's possession, are protected from hacks and further unlawful sales and use.

Plaintiff therefore seeks to remedy the harms Clearview and the individually-named defendants have already caused, to prevent further damage, and to eliminate the risks to citizens in Illinois and throughout the United States created by Clearview's business misuse of millions of citizen's biometric identifiers and information.

The complaint against Clearview

The complaint is seeking damages, expungement of records and an injunction to stop the company from selling the biometric data of Illinois residents. However, an order forcing the company to delete any data related to Illinois residents and punitive damage, to be decided by the court at a later date.

However, it should be mentioned that even though this lawsuit was filed by an individual in Illinois, he seeks class-action status. On Thursday, Democratic Senator Edward Markey said that Clearview's app may pose a "chilling" privacy risk.

Use of Clearview AI app

This app has gone viral among police departments as more than 600 departments started to use this facial recognition technology. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been using the platform to learn more about suspects or persons of interest from their cases. They have successfully used the app to solve several crimes including shoplifting, identify theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation.

But what about privacy? The history says that people raised their voice whenever they found invaders. Nobody likes to give away their information without consent. Facebook is right now the major example of privacy invasion and what happened to the infamous IT service management company, Cambridge Analytica is known world over.

This article was first published on January 25, 2020
Related topics : Artificial intelligence