Face-Scanner Clearview accepts the limits of the legal settlement | Economic news
By KATHLEEN FOODY and MATT O’BRIEN, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Facial recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to restrict the use of its massive collection of images of faces to settle allegations that it collected photos of people without their consent.
The company, in a legal filing on Monday, agreed to permanently stop selling access to its face database to private companies or individuals in the United States, limiting what it can do with its treasure still growing billions of images pulled from social media and elsewhere. on the Internet.
The settlement – which must be approved by a Chicago County judge – will end a 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups for alleged violation of a digital privacy law from Illinois. The company is still facing a separate privacy case before a federal judge in Illinois.
Clearview also agrees to cease making its database available to the Illinois state government and local police departments for five years. The New York-based company will continue to provide its services to federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as other law enforcement agencies and government contractors outside of Illinois.
“This is a huge victory,” said Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, president of Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Acción, which works with survivors of gender-based violence and was a plaintiff in the case with the ACLU and others. groups.
Among the concerns raised by the Tortolero group was that photos posted on social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram – and turned into a “faceprint” by Clearview – could end up being used by stalkers, ex-partners or predatory companies to track a person’s whereabouts. and social activity.
A prominent attorney defending Clearview against the lawsuit said the company was “happy to put this litigation behind it.”
“The settlement does not require any material change to the company’s business model or prohibit it from any conduct in which it currently engages,” said Floyd Abrams, an attorney known to have taken on handling high-profile freedom of expression cases.
Abrams noted that the company already does not provide its services to Illinois police departments and agreed to the 5-year moratorium to “avoid a protracted, costly, and distracting legal dispute with the ACLU and others.”
Illinois’ biometric information privacy law allows consumers to sue companies that don’t get permission before collecting data such as faces and fingerprints. Another privacy lawsuit over the same Illinois law led Facebook last year to agree to pay $650 million to settle allegations that it used photo tagging and tagging. other biometric data without the authorization of its users.
“It shows that we can fight these companies when they take these kinds of actions,” Tortolero said of the Clearview settlement. “It also underscores the fact that there are many ways in which social media — and the tech companies that collect this kind of information — can be harmful to Americans.”
The settlement document says Clearview continues to deny and defend claims filed by the ACLU and other plaintiffs. But even before Monday’s settlement, the case curtailed some of the company’s controversial business practices.
Clearview AI co-founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That told The Associated Press in April that the company was preparing to launch a new “consent-based” commercial product to compete with Amazon and Microsoft in verifying the identity of people using facial recognition.
The new venture would use Clearview’s algorithms to verify a person’s face, but would not involve its trove of some 20 billion images, which Ton-That says is now reserved for law enforcement. This is a change from early in Clearview’s business history, when it pioneered the technology for a variety of business uses.
Regulators from Australia to Canada, France and Italy have taken action to try to prevent Clearview from inserting people’s faces into its facial recognition engine without their consent. The same goes for tech giants like Google and Facebook. Earlier this year, a group of US lawmakers warned that “Clearview AI technology could eliminate public anonymity in the United States.”
While Monday’s settlement “significantly curbs Clearview’s practices,” it should not end the company’s scrutiny by Congress, state legislatures and regulators, said Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. Much of the strength of Clearview’s AI technology – now a selling point for police and other uses – is that it has been able to “learn” from all the faces it has. scanned on the publicly available Internet.
“This company’s approach was really a Silicon Valley mentality of smashing things first and then figuring out how to clean up the mess later in order to try and make a profit,” Wessler said. “They broke a very strong taboo that had prevented big tech companies like Google and others from building the same product that they had the technological capability to do.”
This story has been corrected to reflect that the settlement is awaiting approval from a county judge, not a federal judge.
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