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Biometrics

Firm fined £7.5m for online scraping

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined a firm £7,552,800 for using images of people in the UK, and elsewhere, scraped off the web and social media to create a database for facial recognition. Clearview AI Inc has collected more than 20 billion images of people’s faces and data, publicly available. The firm provides a service that allows customers, including police, to upload an image of a person to the company’s app, which is then checked for a match against all the images in the database.

The ICO has also issued an enforcement notice, ordering the company to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents that is publicly available on the internet, and to delete the data of UK residents from its systems. The fine comes after a joint investigation by the UK watchdog and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, said: “Clearview AI Inc has collected multiple images of people all over the world, including in the UK, from a variety of websites and social media platforms, creating a database with more than 20 billion images. The company not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behaviour and offers it as a commercial service. That is unacceptable. That is why we have acted to protect people in the UK by both fining the company and issuing an enforcement notice.

“People expect that their personal information will be respected, regardless of where in the world their data is being used. That is why global companies need international enforcement. Working with colleagues around the world helped us take this action and protect people from such intrusive activity.

“This international cooperation is essential to protect people’s privacy rights in 2022. That means working with regulators in other countries, as we did in this case with our Australian colleagues. And it means working with regulators in Europe, which is why I am meeting them in Brussels this week so we can collaborate to tackle global privacy harms.”

The ICO found that Clearview AI Inc breached UK data protection law, by failing to have a lawful reason for collecting people’s information; and not being fair and transparent. The fine is according to the Data Protection Act 2018.

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Paul Bischoff, Privacy Advocate at Comparitech, said: “Most people in Clearview.ai’s database have no knowledge that their photo is being used. Clearview.ai’s database doesn’t just include criminals – it includes everyone it possibly can. When police use this database, it means unregulated surveillance of everyone in it, regardless of whether they’re suspected or charged with any crime. In the wrong hands, unregulated use of face recognition can lead to restrictions on freedom of movement, assembly, and expression, and those restrictions will disproportionately affect people of colour, women, and the poor. Not to mention all the scummy ways private corporations can use Clearview.ai.”


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