Facial recognition company at risk of fined more than NOK 200 million

Clearview AI, an Australian company that claims to have a database with more than 10 billion facial images, faces a potential £17 million fine for handling its personal data in the UK, writes BBC. The amount is equivalent to more than 205 million Norwegian kroner.

The company’s database is built through the automatic scraping of publicly available facial images on social media and other websites. It then sells access to the database – and the ability to identify people – to police authorities and private companies.

According to the BBC, the UK Data Protection Authority (ICO) has stated that it has significant concerns regarding Clearview AI.

The authorities have asked the company to stop processing UK personal data and delete everything in its possession.

Clearview, which has been invited to respond, in turn said the Authority’s allegations were “factually and legally untrue”, and that they were considering an appeal and “further action”.

“A large number of people from England”

The Clearview AI tool allows users, such as police officers who want to identify suspects – to upload facial photos and retrieve data in a database. The system then provides a link to where on the internet the matching image appears.

In a statement, the UK Data Protection Authority said that Clearview’s database may include a large number of people from the UK, whose data may have been collected without them knowing.

The company’s service is believed to have been previously tested by a number of UK government agencies, but this was discontinued and Clearview AI has no UK customers, writes the BBC.

The UK Data Protection Authority stated that their initial view was that the company appears to have failed to comply with UK privacy laws, inter alia, failed to process information to UK nationals fairly, by not having processes in place to prevent data from being stored indefinitely, that they have no legal reason to collect the information, and that they do not tell the people in the database about their use of the data.


– Best English

The decision is not final, and the UK Data Protection Authority said any response from Clearview AI will be carefully considered before a final decision is made in the middle of next year.

According to the BBC, Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI, said: “I am deeply disappointed that the UK Data Protection Authority has misinterpreted my technology and intentions.

“My company and I have acted in the interest of the UK and its people by assisting the judiciary in solving horrific crimes against children, the elderly and other victims of immoral acts (…) We only collect public data from the open internet and comply with all privacy and legal standards. »

One step closer to a European ban

Clearview AI’s controversial method is the subject of several legal proceedings globally. Among other things, the authorities include United Kingdom and Australia started an investigation into the company’s data-scraping techniques last year, and earlier this year police in Sweden were fined by the state data inspectorate for using the service.

The company has been found guilty of violating Australian privacy laws, but wants a review of the decision.

The company was also sued in Illinois in the United States last year for violating the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act, which contributed to the company’s decision to to stop selling products to private US companies.

Justice Minister Mæland confirmed in March last year that Norway’s Kripos was also testing Clearview AI for 30 days in fall 2019.

In October, the European Parliament voted in favor of a total ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces, which includes the use of artificial intelligence by authorities and police to prevent criminal activity. The European Parliament is also demanding that the use of private facial recognition databases be banned, affecting Clearview AI, among other things.

The proposal has received a majority, but is not legally binding.

Nevertheless, it is a strong signal of how we can expect the “Artificial Intelligence Act” that is being prepared to be seen. The European Parliament has asked the European Commission to initiate proceedings against Member States if necessary.


Rebecca Burke

"Coffee trailblazer. Analyst. General music geek. Bacon maven. Devoted organizer. Incurable internet ninja. Entrepreneur."

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