Controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI, banned from supporting most private customers, operating in Illinois for 5 years

Clearview AI, the Manhattan-based developer of a highly controversial facial recognition tool, agreed on Monday to stop providing its technology to most private customers and cease doing business in Illinois for five years as part of of a settlement in a lawsuit filed in Cook County.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and its Illinois chapter in May 2020, just four months after The New York Times reported that Clearview had removed billions of photographs from popular websites to create a facial recognition app. unprecedented that counted both law enforcement and businesses as subscribers.

The ACLU alleged the technology violated Illinois’ strict Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, which protects the facial and fingerprint IDs of current and former residents from use without consent.

“Companies like Clearview will end privacy as we know it and must be stopped,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, at the time.

Under the settlement, Clearview will be permanently prohibited from making its massive database available to most businesses and private entities in the county, except those that adhere to the provisions of the Act. Statement regarding the retention, collection, disclosure and destruction of biometric data.

Additionally, it prohibits the company from selling access to any Illinois entity for five years, including law enforcement and other government agencies.

A Buzzfeed News review found that many of the company’s 105 customers in Illinois were local law enforcement, though the report noted that the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and the Cubs of Chicago have also used the software. The Chicago Police Department previously entered into a nearly $50,000 contract to use the software that was discontinued about a month before the Cook County lawsuit was filed.

“This settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse,” Freed Wessler said in a statement Monday. “Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unlimited source of profit.”

Lee Wolosky, an attorney representing Clearview, called the deal a “huge win” for his client.

“Clearview AI will not make any changes to its current business model,” Wolosky, of Jenner and Block, said in a statement. “It will continue to expand its business offerings in accordance with applicable law. And it will pay a small amount of money to cover advertising and expenses, far less money than it would cost to pursue litigation.”

Chicago law firm Edelson PC filed suit on behalf of a slate of plaintiffs specifically seeking to protect domestic violence survivors, undocumented immigrants and other vulnerable communities “solely harmed by acknowledgment surveillance facial,” the ACLU said.

Edelson previously secured a $650 million settlement with Facebook last February after a federal class action lawsuit in California alleged its use of facial recognition to tag photos violated Illinois’ biometrics protection law, marking a major victory for digital privacy advocates. The social media giant later announced that it was shutting down its facial recognition system.

Clearview’s deal will likely have more serious implications for the business model of the shadowy startup, which has already drawn public scrutiny and a deluge of federal lawsuits, including others alleging violations of the law. from Illinois.

The company had shifted to marketing solely to law enforcement and recently rolled out a new version of its app, which allows subscribers to upload a photo and compare it against a database of more than 20 billion. photos taken from the web. But the company also has detailed plans to start attracting new business customers.

The Washington Post reported in February that investors had proposed an “expansion plan” focused on increasing sales in various business sectors.

Then last month, Ton-That told The Associated Press that Clearview was exploring a side venture that would allow companies to use the company’s algorithms to verify a person’s face for banking and other business. other purposes. He insisted the company would not implicate the huge cache of images, which he continued to collect despite strong opposition from regulators, social media companies and advocates.

In a statement, Ton-That said Clearview’s database “is only provided to government agencies for the purpose of solving crimes,” adding that the company will only sell to private companies in accordance with Illinois biometrics law.

“We have notified the courts of our intent to provide our unbiased facial recognition algorithm to other commercial customers, without the database, in a consent-based manner,” he said. “Today, facial recognition is used to unlock your phone, verify your identity, board a plane, gain access to a building, and even for payments.

“This settlement does not prevent Clearview AI from selling its unbiased algorithm, without its database, to commercial entities on a consent basis, which is BIPA compliant.”

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