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

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

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

Clearview claims that its facial recognition database contains some 20 billion images pulled from public sources like Facebook and Instagram. It previously sold its software to a variety of private users and businesses, but recently agreed to restrict itself in the US to selling to federal agencies and police departments following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In the UK, Clearview AI’s services have been used in the past by law enforcement clients, including the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defense and the National Crime Agency. ICO says the company “no longer offers its services to UK organisations”, but notes that the data it has extracted from UK residents can still be used by clients in other countries.

In a press release, UK Information Commissioner John Edwards said that Clearview had likely collected a large amount of information on UK residents. “The company not only allows the identification of these people, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service. That is unacceptable,” Edwards said. “That is why we have acted to protect people in the UK by fining the company and issuing an enforcement notice.”

The ICO said Clearview breached several principles of UK data protection law, including its failure to use the data in a way that is “fair and transparent” (since images of residents were extracted without their knowledge or consent), “have no legal reason”. to collect information from individuals” and “not having a process in place to prevent data from being retained indefinitely.”

However, while ICO issued a fine against 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 fine and removal order issued in Italy under EU law earlier this year, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That responded that the US-based company simply was not subject to EU law. We reached out to the ICO and Clearview for more clarity on these points.

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