Facial recognition surveillance company Clearview AI has agreed to permanently ban most private companies from using its service as part of a legal settlement. The agreement, filed in Illinois court today, would settle a 2020 lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union that alleged the company built its business on facial recognition data taken without consent. user. The agreement formalizes steps Clearview had already taken and protects the company from further lawsuits from the ACLU under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
As part of the settlement, Clearview agrees to a permanent nationwide injunction restricting its sale (or free distribution) of access to a vast database of face photographs – many of which were originally scraped from social networks like Facebook. The injunction prohibits the company from dealing with most private companies and individuals nationwide, including government employees who do not act on behalf of their employers. He also cannot do business with any state or local government agency in Illinois for five years. In addition to attempting to remove all photographs of Illinois residents, it must maintain an opt-out program for residents who wish to block any search using their faces or prevent any collection of their photographs.
Clearview can still work with federal agencies and local police departments, as long as they are outside of Illinois.
The ACLU hailed the settlement as a victory. “By requiring Clearview to comply with Illinois’ groundbreaking biometric privacy law, not just in the state, but nationwide, this regulation demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse,” said the deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. Nathan released Wessler. “Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unlimited source of profit. Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead by enacting strong biometric privacy laws.
Illinois is so far one of the only states to enact a biometric privacy law, making it a hub for activists trying to fight privacy-damaging facial recognition tools. Meta, formerly Facebook, agreed to pay $650 million in a BIPA class action lawsuit last year.
Clearview has already said in 2020 that it will stop working with private companies, dropping a list that at one point apparently included Bank of America, Macy’s and Walmart. The company has instead focused on working with thousands of local law enforcement and federal agencies like the Department of Justice, who have controversially used it for both police work for general use and for unusual events like the Capitol Riot of January 6, 2021.
These contracts are still permitted outside of Illinois under the agreement, although Clearview no longer offers free trial access to individual police officers without the knowledge of departments. But the practice is facing opposition from some state and local governments, where lawmakers have restricted the government’s use of all facial recognition databases, including Clearview’s.