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9 Mar 2021

Johana Bhuiyan, LA Times

USA: Immigrant rights groups sue Clearview AI over dangerous facial recognition database

"Clearview AI uses your online photos to instantly ID you. That’s a problem, lawsuit says", 9 March 2021

Clearview AI has amassed a database of more than 3 billion photos of individuals by scraping sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Venmo... The New York company uses algorithms to map the pictures it stockpiles, determining, for example, the distance between an individual’s eyes to construct a “faceprint.”

This technology appeals to law enforcement agencies across the country, which can use it in real time to help determine people’s identities. It also has caught the attention of civil liberties advocates and activists, who allege in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the company’s automatic scraping of their images and its extraction of their unique biometric information violate privacy and chill protected political speech and activity.

The plaintiffs — four individual civil liberties activists and the groups Mijente and NorCal Resist — allege Clearview AI “engages in the widespread collection of California residents’ images and biometric information without notice or consent.” This is especially consequential, the plaintiffs argue, for proponents of immigration or police reform, whose political speech may be critical of law enforcement and who may be members of communities that have been historically over-policed and targeted by surveillance tactics.

... Unlike other uses of personal information, facial recognition poses a unique danger, said Steven Renderos, executive director of MediaJustice and one of the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit... Enhancing law enforcement’s ability to instantaneously identify and track individuals is potentially chilling, the plaintiffs argue, and could inhibit the members of their groups or Californians broadly from exercising their constitutional right to protest.

... In a statement Tuesday, Floyd Abrams, an attorney for Clearview AI, said the company “complies with all applicable law and its conduct is fully protected by the 1st Amendment.”