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UK watchdog finesses facial recognition firm PS7.5m for image collection

A UK data watchdog has sanctioned a facial recognition firm PS7.5m for collecting images from social media platforms and the internet to add to a global dataset.

Clearview AI, a US-based company, has been ordered by the Information Commissioner’s Office to erase the data of UK residents from their systems. Clearview has gathered more than 20bn images and data of individuals’ faces from Facebook and other social media sites, as well as data scoured from the internet.

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John Edwards, UK’s information commissioner, stated that Clearview’s business model was unacceptable.

Clearview AI Inc has gathered multiple images of people from all over the globe, including the UK, from various websites and social media platforms. This database now contains more than 20 billion images.

“The company allows identification of these people but also monitors their behavior and offers it as an economic service. This is unacceptable. He stated that we have taken action to protect UK citizens by fining the company as well as issuing an enforcement notice.”

Clearview PS17m was fined by the ICO and its Australian counterpart, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Clearview’s technology was offered as a free trial to UK law enforcement agencies. However, that trial was canceled by the ICO.

Clearview’s services no longer exist in the UK, but the ICO stated Monday that it still has customers overseas and was still using data from UK residents.

Clearview customers can upload images of people to the company’s mobile app. This information is then compared against a database. The app will then show a list images similar to the one uploaded by the customer and a link to the original website.

Clearview violated UK data protection laws, according to the ICO. Clearview failed to use UK residents’ information in a fair way and transparently; failed to have a legal reason to collect that information; and failed to have a process to prevent data from being kept indefinitely. Clearview also asked for more information, including photos, from individuals who contacted them to find out if they were included in the database. The ICO stated that this could have dissuaded people who wanted to object to their inclusion on the database.

Clearview announced last week that it would cease selling its access to the US face database to individuals or businesses. The New York-based company will continue to offer its services to federal agencies such as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies and contractors outside of Illinois, where the lawsuit was filed.

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