UK data watchdog settles on £7.5m fine for Clearview AI
Facial recognition firm Clearview AI has been fined £7.5m by UK data protection regulator The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for multiple privacy breaches.
The US-based firm uses data scrapping technology to harvest pictures of people taken from websites and social media platforms and has created an online database by collecting over 20 billion images of people’s faces and data.
The company markets this database as a law enforcement tool “to generate high-quality investigative leads.”
However, the ICO – working with its Australian counterpart the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – found that the firm failed to inform any of these individuals that their images were being collected or used in this way.
While Clearview AI no longer offers its services to UK organisations, the ICO made the point that it has customers in other countries and, given the nation’s high number of UK Internet and social media users, the watchdog found it “likely” that the firm would still be using the personal data of UK residents.
Accordingly, in addition to the fine the ICO has also issued an enforcement notice, ordering the company to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents that is publicly available on the internet, and to delete the data of UK residents from its systems.
Information commissioner John Edward said Clearview not only allowed people on its database to be identified from photographs, but effectively allowed their behaviour to be monitored in a way that was “unacceptable.”
“People expect that their personal information will be respected, regardless of where in the world their data is being used. That is why global companies need international enforcement. Working with colleagues around the world helped us take this action and protect people from such intrusive activity.”
Clearview – which has faced similar enforcement orders from privacy regulators in Australia, France, and Italy – claims that its technology has helped law enforcement track down hundreds of at-large criminals and has also been used to exonerate the innocent.
The news follows the ICO’s preliminary decision last November in which it warned Clearview that it could face the largest fine possible – £17m (20m Euro). The ICO reduced the proposed fine after considering representations from the company.
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