The face recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to limit the use of its massive collection of facial images to approve allegations that it collected photos of people without their consent.
The company in a legal statement on Monday agreed to permanently stop selling access to its database to individuals to private businesses or individuals across the U.S., limiting what it can do with its ever-growing billions of images obtained from social media and elsewhere. online.
An agreement to be approved by a federal judge in Chicago suspends a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups in 2020 over alleged violations Illinois digital privacy laws.
Clearview also agrees for five years to suspend access to its database for the Illinois government and local police departments. The New York-based company will continue to offer its services to federal agencies such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service, as well as other law enforcement and government contractors outside of Illinois.
“This is a huge victory,” said Linda Sachitl Tortalera, president of the Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Accion, which works with victims of gender-based violence and has worked with the ACLU and other groups.
Among the concerns of Tortaler’s group was that photos posted on social networks such as Facebook or Instagram, and turned Clearview into a “face print”, could end up being used by stalkers, former partners or predatory companies to track a person’s location. and community activism.
A well-known lawyer who defended Clearview from the lawsuit said the company “gladly stopped the lawsuit.”
“The settlement does not require significant changes in the company’s business model and does not prohibit it from any actions in which it is currently involved,” said Floyd Abrams, a lawyer known for his high-profile freedom of speech case.
Abrams noted that the company no longer provides services to Illinois police, and agreed to a 5-year moratorium to “avoid lengthy, costly and distracting legal disputes with the ACLU and others.”
“This shows that we can fight these companies if they take such action,” Tortoler said of the Clearview settlement on Monday. “It also underscores the fact that there are many ways in which social networks and technology companies that collect such information can harm Americans.”
The settlement document states that Clearview continues to deny and challenge the claims of the ACLU and other plaintiffs. But even before Monday’s settlement, the case curtailed some of the company’s controversial business practices.
Co-founder and CEO of Clearview AI Joan Ton-Tat told the Associated Press in April that the company was preparing to launch a new business product based on consent to compete with Amazon and Microsoft in verifying people’s faces through face recognition.
The new venture will use Clearview algorithms to verify a person’s identity, but will not include about 20 billion images, which, according to Ton-That, are now reserved for use by law enforcement. This is a shift from Clearview’s previous business history when it deployed technology for a variety of commercial purposes.
Regulators from Australia to Canada, France and Italy have taken steps to try to prevent Clearview from pulling people’s faces into the face recognition system without their consent. Technology giants like Google and Facebook have the same. A group of U.S. lawmakers earlier this year warned that “Clearview AI technology could eliminate public anonymity in the United States.”