Clearview AI fined for illegally storing images of Britons’ faces

Clearview AI, a New York-based facial recognition company, has been fined £7.5 million ($9.4 million) by a UK privacy regulator.

Over the past few years, the company has collected images from the web and social media of people in Britain and elsewhere to create a global online database that can be used by law enforcement for facial recognition. .

The Information Commission office said on Monday that the company had breached UK data protection laws.

The ICO ordered Clearview to delete the data it has on UK residents and banned it from collecting any more. Clearview did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Clearview writes on its website that it has collected more than 20 billion facial images from people around the world. It collects publicly posted images from social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as news media, mugshot websites and other open sources. It does this without informing people or asking for their consent.

Clearview’s platform allows law enforcement to upload a photo of an individual and try to match it to photos stored in Clearview’s database.

John Edwards, the UK’s Information Commissioner, said in a statement: “The company not only enables these individuals to be identified, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers this as a commercial service. It is unacceptable.”

He added that people expect their personal information to be respected, no matter where in the world their data is used.

Clearview has also been fined by regulators in France, Italy and Australia.

The ICO’s enforcement action comes after a joint investigation with the Australian Information Commissioner’s Office.

Clearview does not publish the names of its clients, but BuzzFeed News reported that it has worked with 2,200 law enforcement agencies, businesses and individuals worldwide. Macy’s, Walmart, Bank of America and Target have all reportedly used the service. CNBC could not independently verify the information.

In May 2020, Clearview said it would stop working with non-law enforcement entities and private companies amid regulatory review and potential lawsuits.

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