Clearview Faces £17 Million Penalty For Breaching Data Laws

The British data regulator has warned Clearview AI that it faces a fine of at least £17m ($22.5m) over its use of people’s data to power its facial recognition software. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a provisional notice to stop further processing of the personal data of people in the UK and to delete it following alleged serious breaches of the UK’s data protection laws.

Clearview claims to have the largest known database of facial images, with more than 10 billion images sourced from public-only web sources, including news media, mugshot websites, public social media, and other open sources. 

The company pitches its web-based intelligence platform, powered by facial recognition technology, as a tool that helps law enforcement “generate high-quality investigative leads.”

The ICO is particularly concerned that while the tech firm’s services are no longer being offered in the United Kingdom, and the company has no UK-based customers, evidence suggests it both has and “may be continuing to process significant volumes of UK people’s information without their knowledge.”

“I have significant concerns that personal data was processed in a way that nobody in the UK will have expected,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a statement.

The announcement of the fine and provisional notice follows a joint investigation conducted by the ICO and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The ICO and OAIC investigation found that the company failed to comply with UK data protection laws, such as failure to process the information of UK residents in a way that is fair or expected, failure to have a process in place to prevent data from being retained indefinitely, and failure to have a lawful reason for collecting information. 

“The images in Clearview AI Inc’s database are likely to include the data of a substantial number of people from the UK and may have been gathered without people’s knowledge from publicly available information online, including social media platforms,” stated the ICO. 

“UK data protection legislation does not stop the effective use of technology to fight crime, but to enjoy public trust and confidence in their products technology providers must ensure people’s legal protections are respected and complied with,” said the UK’s information commissioner Elizabeth Denham. Clearview have responded to the ICO notice, describing  ICO’s allegations as “factually and legally incorrect.”

ICO:    Law360:     Newsbreak:   Oodaloop:     ComplianceWeek:    Infosecurity Magazine:   Writofly:

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