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Article

29 Nov 2021

Author:
Rob Davies, The Guardian

UK: US facial recognition firm Clearview AI faces £17m fine for breaching data protection law, considers appealing

A US company that gathered photos of people from Facebook and other social media sites for use in facial recognition by its clients is facing a £17m fine after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found it had committed “serious breaches” of data protection law.

Clearview AI, which describes itself as the “world’s largest facial network,” allows its customers to compare facial data against a database of more than 10bn images harvested from the internet...

Clearview’s technology had been offered on a “free trial basis” to UK law enforcement agencies, the data regulator added. The company said the ICO’s findings were “factually and legally incorrect”, that it was considering an appeal, and that it had only provided publicly available information to law enforcement agencies.

It said Clearview had broken data protection law by failing to process the information of people in the UK in a way they were likely to expect or that was fair...

Clearview also allegedly failed to meet the higher data protection standards required for biometric data under general data protection regulations and did not inform people in the UK of what was happening to their data...

The company’s chief executive, Hoan Ton-That, said... “My company and I have acted in the best interests of the UK and [its] people by assisting law enforcement in solving heinous crimes against children, seniors, and other victims of unscrupulous acts... I would welcome the opportunity to engage in conversation with leaders and lawmakers so the true value of this technology which has proven so essential to law enforcement can continue to make communities safe.” ...

[The UK’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham] added: “Clearview AI Inc’s services are no longer being offered in the UK. However, the evidence we’ve gathered and analysed suggests Clearview AI Inc were and may be continuing to process significant volumes of UK people’s information without their knowledge. We therefore want to assure the UK public that we are considering these alleged breaches and taking them very seriously.” ...