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Too Clear a View: Clearview AI Fine

Too Clear a View: Clearview AI Fine

Too Clear a View: Clearview AI Fine 

A £7.5 million fine was handed out to Clearview AI by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) for using images of people in the UK, and elsewhere, that were collected from the web and social media to create a global online database that could be used for facial recognition.

The ICO has also issued an enforcement notice, ordering the company to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents that is publicly available on the internet, and to delete the data of UK residents from its systems. The ICO enforcement action comes after a joint investigation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), which focused on Clearview AI Inc’s use of people’s images, data scraping from the internet and the use of biometric data for facial recognition.


Who are Clearview AI?

Clearview AI are a company which, in their most simple form, collect images and personal data from publicly available information from the internet such as social media sites. This personal data gets uploaded onto the Clearview database, where customers (including the police) can access the data by uploading an image into the database, which will then search the rest of the network for other image matches. The programme will look for similar characteristics and matches similar to the image provided by the customer. Clearview AI will also link the similar images to the website that they had been found on ie a social media page.

For a further explanation of how Clearview AI work, please click the link for more (https://twitter.com/ICOnews/status/1528663059178340360).


Why is this important?

Clearview AI, despite not being used in the UK, due to the legal and regulatory issues with the app, has still collected the personal data of UK residents. This data has not been deleted from the app therefore, a great deal of personal data taken without UK resident’s consent is just out there for people to use, including the police!

Even surface level here, it is clear that there are some serious red flags with Clearview AI collecting this amount of data. However, if you factor in the point that police are able to use this technology

Similarly, should a person with access to Clearview AI technology have nefarious intentions, it is easy to find out a great deal of information on such person. For example if someone searched for my photo using Clearview AI, not only could they potentially find any of my social media handles but also my old secondary and primary school. This is because my photo was featured on their websites, with my consent. Linking the images found on Clearview AI to the website that they had been found on could lead to additional personal data being collected, almost inadvertently.



The General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’), transposed into UK law via the Data Protection Act 2018 (‘DPA’18’). Using the definition provided by the ICO, they determine consent as ‘offering individuals real choice and control. Genuine consent should put individuals in charge, build trust and engagement, and enhance your reputation’. Applying this definition to Clearview AI and their practice in collecting personal data, which under DPA’18 includes people’s images as personal data, it is clear that Clearview AI do not comply with legal and regulatory standards, hence the huge fine from the ICO.




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