UK privacy watchdog Clearview AI warned on Monday that the controversial facial recognition company faces a potential fine of £17 million, or $23 million, for “alleged serious breaches” of privacy laws country data. The regulator has also asked the company to delete personal information of people in the UK.
Photos from Clearview AI’s database “are likely to include data from a significant number of people in the UK and may have been gathered without people’s knowledge from publicly available information online. , including social media platforms,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said in a statement. A declaration Monday.
In February 2020, BuzzFeed News first reported that people from the National Crime Agency, the Metropolitan Police and a number of other police forces across England have been listed as having access to Clearview’s facial recognition technology, according to internal data. The company built its business by grabbing people’s photos from the web and social media and indexing them into a vast facial recognition database.
In March, a BuzzFeed News investigation based on Clearview AI’s own internal data revealed how the New York-based startup marketed its facial recognition tool — offering free trials for its mobile app or desktop software — to thousands of officers and employees at more than 1,800 U.S. taxpayer-funded entities, according to data through February 2020. In August, another BuzzFeed News investigation showed how police departments, bureaus prosecutors and interior ministries around the world conducted nearly 14,000 searches in the same period with Clearview AI. software.
Clearview AI no longer offers its services in the UK.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced the interim orders following a joint investigation with Australia’s privacy regulator. Earlier this month, the Australian Information Commissioner’s Office (OAIC) required the company destroys all images and face models belonging to people living in the country, following a BuzzFeed News investigation.
“I am very concerned that personal data has been processed in a way that no one in the UK expected,” UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement. “It is therefore only fitting that the ICO alert people to the magnitude of this potential breach and the proposed actions we are taking.”
Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said he was “deeply disappointed” with the interim decision.
“I am discouraged by the company’s misinterpretation of Clearview AI technology,” Ton-That said in a statement. “I would welcome the opportunity to engage in conversation with leaders and lawmakers so that the true value of this technology that has proven so critical to law enforcement can continue to make communities safe. .”
Clearview AI’s UK lawyer, Kelly Hagedorn, said the company was considering appeal and further action. The ICO expects to make a final decision by mid-2022.