Facial recognition company Clearview AI has been fined more than £7.5m by the UK's privacy watchdog. Following France, Italy, and Australia's suit, Clearview has had its vision cut short in the UK. Although the company argues it stores facial images as a safety initiative, Clearview AI takes publicly posted pictures online, usually without the platform's knowledge or permission. In this thread, our community discusses Clearview's endeavor and the backlash that followed.
This Slogging thread by Mónica Freitas and Sara Pinto occurred in slogging's official #technology channel, and has been edited for readability.
Clearview AI fined in UK for illegally storing facial images
"Facial recognition company Clearview AI has been fined more than £7.5m by the UK's privacy watchdog and told to delete the data of UK residents.
The company gathers images from the internet to create a global facial recognition database.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) says that breaches UK data protection laws.
It has ordered the firm to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents.
Clearview AI chief executive Hoan Ton-That said: "I am deeply disappointed that the UK Information Commissioner has misinterpreted my technology and intentions.
"We collect only public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law."
"The ICO says that, globally, the company has stored more than 20 billion facial images.
Clearview AI takes publicly posted pictures from Facebook, Instagram and other sources, usually without the knowledge of the platform or any permission.
John Edwards, UK information commissioner, said: "The company not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behaviour and offers it as a commercial service. That is unacceptable."
Mr Edwards continued: "People expect that their personal information will be respected, regardless of where in the world their data is being used."
The UK has become the fourth country to take enforcement action against the firm, following France, Italy and Australia."
"Its founder Hoan Ton-That insists that the firm's mission is to "help communities and their people to live better, safer lives" and that all the data it has collected is freely available on the internet. He says Clearview's enormous database of faces has successfully helped law enforcement to fight "heinous" crimes."
What do you think of Clearview's initiative and the backlash that followed?
Mónica Freitas, well, it's a really weird position. The initiative by itself sounds harmless, but when companies mess with data, even if public data, I can't help but feel uneasy.
Mónica Freitas, I think this is the issue that we always discuss when it comes to facial recognition: our own security and liberty, in some way. They identify us, link our behaviors and this put in the wrong hands can backlash even more.
Sara Pinto, precisely. Besides, are we not entitled to our privacy? Clearview just took the initiative to track all our steps without asking for consent. We never signed any terms and conditions agreement stating that we agreed to have our biometrics traced and tracked.
Mónica Freitas, agreed. However, I wonder what can we do about this other than fin the company. Plus, if it wasn't for ICO, would we know about this? It's worrying.
Sara Pinto, it seems like we lost our power over our information. Scary. And that's why Web3 is going to grow and grow. But I'm not sure what we, the ordinary individual, can do to get our data out of these companies' grip. And you're right! If it weren't for this piece of news, I wouldn't have known. They've been banned in Italy and the UK. Could it be that they still hold facial images from all other countries across Europe?
Mónica Freitas, they might, but if those countries are now taking action, I don't think they'll hold that other countries' data any longer.
Sara Pinto, I'm actually under the opposite impression: I think they'll continue with what they're doing until they're sued everywhere. While they have room to use facial recognition, they will. They got sued in Italy and that didn't stop them - they just removed that country from their efforts.
Mónica Freitas, unfortunately, that's the most likely outcome. Do you think any other country will take the initiative to sue? What else could we do to prevent this?
Sara Pinto, I found an article that said that Clearview has already been fined in France and Australia as well: https://www.theverge.com/2022/5/23/23137603/clearview-ai-ordered-delete-data-uk-residents-ico-fine#:~:text=The%20ICO%20also%20fined%20Clearview,Australia%2C%20France%2C%20and%20Italy.
Mónica Freitas, countries are definitely stepping up. This is a case to watch closely.
Sara Pinto, true story.