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Clearview AI will stop selling its facial recognition software to private companies

Facial recognition software continues to be controversial in its application. However, one of the companies at the forefront of the tech, Clearview AI, has agreed not to sell its software to non-government-controlled organizations.

According to the agreement finalized at a court in Illinois, it put to rest a lawsuit filed in 2020 by the American Civil Liberties Union, which accused Clearview AI of developing its software with the facial data of people that did not consent to their likeness being used. It also forestalls further legal action by the ACLU, which could bank on Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, BIPA.

Clearview AI is now restricted in selling access to its massive database of face images, most of which it got from social networks, primarily Facebook. The agreement prevents the company from doing business with most private businesses and individuals. These include government employees when they are not acting on behalf of their employer.

Separately, Clearview AI is prevented from doing business with any government within Illinois territory, including local governments and federal government agencies within the state, for five years. In addition to this, the company must attempt to clear all photographs belonging to Illinois residents. It also has to implement a mechanism for residents that want to be blocked from searches in Clearview AI’s database, and prevent their faces from being added.

However, Clearview may work with federal agencies and even local police departments located outside Illinois.

Hailing the outcome of the court case, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project deputy director Nathan Freed Wessler, said, “By requiring Clearview to comply with Illinois’ pathbreaking biometric privacy law not just in the state, but across the country, this settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse. Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unrestricted source of profit. Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead in enacting strong biometric privacy laws.”

Other states have implemented similar biometric privacy laws, but they remain few. As such, the state has attracted lots of activists pursuing cases against tools that threaten people’s privacy, including facial recognition applications. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, agreed to a $650 million settlement in Illinois last year after a class-action lawsuit was filed against it.

However, Clearview had already announced it would no longer work with privately owned companies like Bank of America and Walmart. Thanks to pressure from privacy rights advocates, the company shifted its focus to local law enforcement agencies, of which there are thousands and the Justice Department. The latter have used facial recognition software for police work, including in the prosecution of people that partook in the January 6th riot last year at the Capitol.

While Clearview AI can still work with law enforcement, it will not be offering free trial access to police officers without their department’s consent. However, there is fierce opposition from some state and local governments over the use of facial recognition software products.

Written by HackerVibes

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