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Clearview AI agrees to stop selling facial recognition database to private entities

Clearview AI agrees to stop selling facial recognition database to private entities
Clearview AI agreed Monday to no longer sell its facial recognition database to private entities in the United States as part of a legal settlement with the ACLU in Illinois. File Photo by geralt/Pixabay

May 9 (UPI) -- Facial recognition software company Clearview AI agreed Monday to limit sales of its face database in the United States to government agencies.

The company came to the agreement to no longer sell its database of more than 20 billion facial photos to most private individuals and businesses in the United States as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit filed in Illinois state court.

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The ACLU filed the lawsuit in May 2020 on behalf of groups representing victims of domestic violence, undocumented immigrants and sex workers accusing Clearview of violating Illinois's Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits private entities from using algorithmic maps of citizens' faces and other bodily identifiers without consent.

"Clearview can no longer treat people's unique biometric identifiers as an unrestricted source of profits," Nathan Freed Wessler, a deputy director with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project said following the settlement.

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"Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois' lead in enacting strong biometric privacy laws."

As part of the settlement, Clearview also agreed to stop working with all police or government agencies in Illinois for five years.

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"To avoid a protracted, costly and distracting legal dispute with the ACLU and others, Clearview AI has agreed to continue to not provide its services to law enforcement in Illinois for a period of time," said Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment expert who represented Clearview in the suit.

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Clearview created an opt-out form allowing Illinois residents to request that their photos not show up in its search results and said it will spend $50,000 on online ads raising awareness about the form, while also filtering out photos taken in or uploaded from the state.

Clearview also agreed to stop offering free trial accounts to individual police officers without approval from their supervisors.

However, Clearview still will be able to provide its database to U.S. banks and financial institutions, although Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said the company did "not have plans" to provide the database "to entities besides government agencies at this time."

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It also still can sell its facial recognition album, without the database of images, to private companies.

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