Clearview AI has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for scraping billions of photos from public social media profiles to train its facial recognition system without the explicit consent of the people.
The lawsuit, filed at Cook County Circuit Court, Illinois on Thursday, claims that Clearview violated the state ‘s strict Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Whether in the form of fingerprints or photographs, companies operating in Illinois must obtain explicit consent from individuals when collecting their biometric data.
“Clearview has violated and continues to violate the BIPA rights of Plaintiffs’ members, clients, and program participants and other Illinois residents at staggering scale,” the lawsuit claimed.
“Using face recognition technology, Clearview has captured more than three billion faceprints from images available online, all without the knowledge – much less the consent – of those pictured.”
Clearview, a startup based in New York, made headlines in January when it was revealed that by downloading pictures of people from public pages on sites like Facebook, YouTube, Venmo, Instagram and Twitter, they amassed a database of three billion images.
The dataset was used to train facial recognition algorithms so that when images are fed into Clearview ‘s system, say from a CCTV camera, the code looks for a match, and if found, it spits out everything it knows about that person: their pictures harvested, and the URLs to the source pages that typically contain more personal information, such as names and contact details.
A hacker broke into Clearview ‘s systems and revealed its customer list, which included US household staples such as Macy’s, Walmart, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and some universities.
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Clearview’s lawyer Tor Ekeland told The Register: “Clearview AI is a search engine that uses only publicly available images accessible on the internet. It is absurd that the ACLU wants to censor which search engines people can use to access public information on the internet. The First Amendment forbids this.”