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Clearview AI ordered to delete facial recognition data belonging to UK residents

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The controversial face recognition company Clearview AI has been ordered delete all data belonging to British residents of the country’s privacy watchdog, the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO). The ICO also fined Clearview £ 7.5 million ($ 9.4 million) for failing to comply with UK data protection laws.

This is the fourth time that Clearview has been ordered to delete national data in this way, following similar orders and fines issued in Australia, France and Italy.

Clearview claims that its facial recognition database contains approximately 20 billion images scraped from public sources such as Facebook and Instagram. It previously sold its software to a set of private users and businessesbut recently agreed to limit itself in the United States to selling to federal agencies and police departments following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In the UK, Clearview AI services have been used in the past law enforcement clients including the Metropolitan Police, War Department, and National Crime Agency. The ICO says the company “no longer offers its services to British organizations”, but notes that the data it has scraped from British residents can still be used by customers in other countries.

In a press release, UK Information Commissioner John Edwards said Clearview was likely to gather a lot of information about British residents. “The company not only enables the identification of these people, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a business service. That is unacceptable,” Edwards said.

The ICO said Clearview had violated several dogmas of the UK’s data protection law, including failure to use data in a “fair and transparent” manner (considering that images of residents were scraped without their knowledge or consent), “failing to have legal reason “. for collecting information from people, “and” failure to have a process to stop the data from being retained indefinitely. “

However, although ICO fined Clearview and ordered the company to remove UK data, it is unclear how this could be enforced if Clearview has no business or customers in the country to sanction. In response to a similar removal order and fine issued in Italy under EU law earlier this year, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That responded that the US company. has simply not been subject to EU law.

When asked about this issue, the ICO said The Edge that if the company does not comply, it may issue additional fines. (Although if Clearview ignores the former, it is unclear what else to do.)

In response to the same question, Lee Wolosky of Jenner and Block, Clearview’s legal representatives, said The Edge: “While we appreciate the ICO’s desire to reduce its fine on Clearview AI, we nevertheless maintain our position that the decision to impose any fine is incorrect by law. Clearview AI is not subject to the ICO’s jurisdiction, and Clearview AI is not. doing business in the UK right now. “

The ICO added that Clearview has 28 days to appeal the decision, and then 6 months to implement it. When asked by the company how the company would distinguish between data belonging to British residents and other individuals, the watchdog said: “This is a question for Clearview to answer.” The regulator added that its investigation team “will keep in touch with Clearview to ensure that appropriate measures are taken.”

Update, May 23, 9:57 AM ET: The story has been updated with further comment from the legal representation of ICO and Clearview.


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