Clearview: Controversial facial recognition app for private US companies banned

After a court settlement, Clearview AI is no longer allowed to sell the biometric data of its controversial facial recognition software to companies and private actors in the USA. This was the result of a comparison with the civil rights organization ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and joint plaintiffs such as the Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation against the background of Illinois’ data protection law BIPA. The decision applies to the entire United States beyond Illinois. However, government organizations are still allowed to use Clearview’s app — except in Illinois. There, a ban on the sale of the app to law enforcement and police authorities applies for a period of five years.

In 2020, the ACLU had filed a lawsuit, accusing Clearview AI of violating an Illinois ruling. Under BIPA, “private entities or individuals” may no longer collect or use biometric data from individuals without their consent – Fingerprints, iris scans and the like should therefore not be collected without permission. Companies that do not comply can be sued. In addition, Clearview must end its free trial program for law enforcement officers and offer an opt-out policy and advertise it on Google, Facebook or other media for $50,000.

‎”By asking Clearview to do that […] Illinois Biometric Privacy Act […] across the country, this agreement shows that strong privacy laws can provide real protection against abuse,” commented Nathan Freed Wessler, associate director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, on the decision. “Clearview can understand people’s unique biometric identifiers no longer treat it as an unrestricted source of profit. […] other states should follow Illinois’ lead and enact strong biometric privacy laws.”

The decision does not represent a material change in business model for the company: “Clearview AI does not currently provide its services to law enforcement agencies in Illinois, although it can lawfully do so. To avoid a lengthy, costly and distracting legal battle with the ACLU and others, has Clearview AI has agreed to continue offering its services to Illinois law enforcement agencies for a period of time.” The company does not want to change its stance on sales to private companies. “Our database is only made available to government agencies for crime investigation purposes,” commented Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview.‎.‎

“Clearview AI will not make any changes to its current business model. It will continue to expand its business offering in accordance with applicable law.” says Jenner & Block Partner Lee Wolosky, representing the company to Biometric Update. The company will pay attorneys’ fees, which are far less than continuing the litigation.

Also, as part of the settlement, Clearview will provide an opt-out request form. There, Illinois residents can upload a photo and fill out a form that prohibits the company from using the image for any purpose other than the opt-out process. Over the next five years, Clearview will then try to filter out the relevant images from its database.


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