By Kathleen Foody and Matt O’Brien | Associated press
CHICAGO — Facial recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to restrict the use of its massive collection of images of faces to settle allegations that it collected photos of people without their consent.
The company, in a legal filing on Monday, agreed to permanently stop selling access to its face database to private companies or individuals in the United States, limiting what it can do with its treasure still growing billions of images pulled from social media and elsewhere. on the Internet.
The settlement – which must be approved by a federal judge in Chicago – will end a 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups for alleged violations of an Illinois law on digital privacy.
Clearview also agrees to cease making its database available to the Illinois state government and local police departments for five years. The New York-based company will continue to provide its services to federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as other law enforcement agencies and government contractors outside of Illinois.
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“This is a huge victory,” said Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, president of Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Acción, which works with survivors of gender-based violence and was a plaintiff in the case with the ACLU and others. groups.
Among the concerns raised by the Tortolero group was that photos posted on social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram – and turned into a “faceprint” by Clearview – could end up being used by stalkers, ex-partners or predatory companies to track a person’s whereabouts. and social activity.
Illinois’ biometric information privacy law allows consumers to sue companies that don’t get permission before collecting data such as faces and fingerprints. Another privacy lawsuit over the same Illinois law led Facebook last year to agree to pay $650 million to settle allegations that it used photo tagging and tagging. other biometric data without the authorization of its users.
“It shows that we can fight these companies when they take these kinds of actions,” Tortolero said of the Clearview settlement on Monday. of information – may be detrimental to Americans.”
The settlement document says Clearview continues to deny and defend claims filed by the ACLU and other plaintiffs. But even before Monday’s settlement, the case curtailed some of the company’s controversial business practices.
Clearview AI co-founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That told The Associated Press in April that the company was preparing to launch a new “consent-based” commercial product to compete with Amazon and Microsoft in verifying the identity of people using facial recognition.
The new venture would use Clearview’s algorithms to verify a person’s face, but would not involve its trove of some 20 billion images, which Ton-That says is now reserved for law enforcement. This is a change from early in Clearview’s business history, when it pioneered the technology for a variety of business uses.
Regulators from Australia to Canada, France and Italy have taken action to try to prevent Clearview from inserting people’s faces into its facial recognition engine without their consent. The same goes for tech giants like Google and Facebook. Earlier this year, a group of US lawmakers warned that “Clearview AI technology could eliminate public anonymity in the United States.”