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Clearview AI must stop selling facial recognition database to private companies

Written on May 27, 2022

Facial recognition company Clearview AI will no longer sell its facial recognition database to most private companies or individuals in the US. The change comes as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union.  

Clearview AI has been criticized for building its database, which the company says has more than 20 billion facial images, by trawling the internet and popular social media sites to harvest pictures of people without their consent. The company's software has been used by local police departments and government agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. 

In 2020, the ACLU and other organizations sued Clearview AI for violating Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act, one of the few state privacy laws regulating the collection of biometric data. The law requires companies to have "informed written consent" before gathering and using biometric identifiers, including images of faces, of Illinois residents.  

Under the settlement, Clearview can still sell its database to federal and state agencies as well as some U.S. banks and financial institutions.  

However, in Illinois, the company will be banned from letting private companies and any state or local agency, including law enforcement, use its database for the next five years, according to the ACLU. Clearview also has to maintain an opt-out website for Illinois residents, letting them request that their photos not show up in its search results.  

The settlement is subject to approval by the court.