The secretive startup was exposed last week in an explosive New York Times report which revealed how Clearview was selling access to "faceprints" and facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies across the US. The startup claimed it could identify a person based on a single photo, revealing their real name, general location, and other identifiers. The report sparked outrage among US citizens, who had photos collected and added to the Clearview AI database without their consent. The Times reported that the company collected more than three billion photos, from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Venmo, and others. This week, the company was hit with the first lawsuit in the aftermath of the New York Times exposé.
Facebook users who felt that their privacy was violated by the website's use of facial recognition software -- which it uses to help identify and tag people in photographs -- won an early legal victory Thursday when a San Francisco federal judge rejected a request by the internet company to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its collection of biometric information. "The court accepts as true plaintiffs' allegations that Facebook's face recognition technology involves a scan of face geometry that was done without plaintiffs' consent," U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled. Three Illinois residents filed separate lawsuits -- that were later combined -- under the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008, which allows companies to be sued for failing to get consumers' consent before collecting or storing their biometric information, which includes "faceprints" used by Facebook (and also Google) for identifying people in photographs. Facebook introduced its face-recognition feature in 2010. California, where Facebook is based, does not have a law regulating the use of biometrics.
A Facebook logo seen through the windows of the NASDAQ stock exchange in 2012. SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco federal judge rejected Facebook's request to toss a lawsuit alleging its photo-tagging feature that uses facial recognition technology invades users' privacy. U.S. District Judge James Donato allowed the case to move forward against Facebook under an Illinois law that bans collecting and storing biometric data without explicit consent. "The Court accepts as true plaintiffs' allegations that Facebook's face recognition technology involves a scan of face geometry that was done without plaintiffs' consent," Donato wrote in Thursday's ruling. Facebook launched the photo-tagging tool in 2010 which automatically matches names to faces in photos uploaded to the social network.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking Clearview AI to court, claiming the company's facial surveillance activities violate the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) and "represent an unprecedented threat to our security and safety". The legal action, brought on by lawyers at the ACLU of Illinois and the law firm Edelson PC, is on behalf of organisations that represent survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, undocumented immigrants, and other vulnerable communities. Clearview AI, founded by Australian entrepreneur Hoan Ton-That, provides facial recognition software, marketed primarily at law enforcement. The ACLU said not stopping Clearview AI would "end privacy as we know it". "Face recognition technology offers a surveillance capability unlike any other technology in the past. It makes it dangerously easy to identify and track us at protests, AA meetings, counselling sessions, political rallies, religious gatherings, and more," the ACLU wrote in a blog post.