Bulletins

ACLU settles landmark privacy lawsuit with Clearview AI

The company can no longer sell its database of faceprints to private entities.

Facial recognition

The company can no longer sell its database of faceprints to private entities.

Photo: Westend61 via Getty Images

The ACLU has reached a settlement with facial recognition company Clearview AI that will restrict the company from selling its database of faceprints to most private entities, the nonprofit announced on Monday.


The settlement, filed Monday in a federal court in Illinois, bars the company from selling its biometric data to most businesses and private firms across the U.S. The company also agreed to stop offering free trial accounts to individual police officers without their employers' knowing or approving, which had allowed them to run searches outside of police departments' purview. The settlement is the biggest legal action taken against the company yet over its database of billions of photos that has been used by "private companies, wealthy individuals and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies," according to the ACLU.

Clearview AI also created an opt-out form for Illinois residents, allowing them to request that their photos not show up in its search results, and will spend $50,000 to advertise this form to residents.

"Clearview treated people’s biometrics as unrestricted sources of profit and ignored the danger that comes with tracking faceprints," the ACLU said in a tweet.

The lawsuit accused Clearview AI of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits companies from taking and using Illinois residents' "biometric identifiers," such as faceprints and fingerprints, without their permission. The ACLU, together with its its Illinois branch and several nonprofits helping "survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, undocumented immigrants, current and former sex workers and other vulnerable communities uniquely harmed by face recognition surveillance," filed the lawsuit in May 2020. Clearview AI's database reportedly includes more than 20 billion photos from across the internet, according to the Washington Post.

The Illinois statute has also been used to sue other companies over their facial recognition practices. Facebook last year reached a $650 million settlement in a long-running class-action suit alleging it violated the law when it introduced its "tag suggestions" feature.

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