Kathleen Fuji and Matt O’Brien – Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) – Startup for face recognition 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 suspend the sale of access to its database to private companies or individuals across the United States, limiting what it can do with an ever-growing treasury of billions of images extracted from social networks and other places online.
The settlement, which is due to be approved by a Chicago district judge, suspends a 2-year-old lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups over alleged violations of the Illinois Digital Privacy Act.
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.
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“This is a huge victory,” said Linda Sachitl Tortalera, president of the Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Acción, which works with victims of gender-based violence and has spoken with the ACLU and other groups.
Among the problems raised by Tortaler’s group was that photos posted on social networks such as Facebook or Instagram – and turned Clearview into a “fingerprint” – could end up being used by stalkers, former partners or predatory companies to track location man. and community activism.
A well-known lawyer who defended Clearview from the lawsuit said the company was “happy to end this 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,” Tortalera said of the Clearview settlement. “It also underscores the fact that there are many ways in which social media – and technology companies that collect this kind of information – can be harmful to 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 Ton-That said 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.”
Although Monday’s settlement “significantly hinders Clearview’s practice,” it should not stop the campaign from being controlled by Congress, state legislatures and regulators, said Nathan Fried Wessler, ACLU’s deputy director of speech, privacy and technology. In many ways, the advantage of Clearview artificial intelligence technology – now a selling point for police and other purposes – is that it has been able to “learn” from all the individuals it has scanned on the public internet.
“The approach of this campaign was actually the Silicon Valley mentality: let’s disassemble everything first, and then figure out how to clean up the mess to try to make a profit,” Wesler said. “They broke through a very strong taboo that prevented large technology companies such as Google and others from creating the same product for which they had the technological capabilities.”
This was reported by O’Brien of Providence, Rhode Island.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the settlement is awaiting approval from a district judge, not a federal judge.
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