US facial recognition company faces £ 17million fine in UK for ‘serious breaches’

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US company that collected photos of people on Facebook and other social media sites for facial recognition by its customers faces a fine of £ 17million after the Information Commissioner’s office discovered that he had committed “serious violations” of data protection law.

Clearview AI, which describes itself as the “largest facial network in the world”, allows its customers to compare facial data against a database of more than 10 billion images collected from the Internet.

The database is’ likely to include data from a substantial number of people in the UK and may have been unknowingly gathered from publicly available information online, including online platforms. social media, ”said the ICO.

Clearview’s technology had been offered as a “free trial” to UK law enforcement agencies, the data regulator added.

He said Clearview broke data protection law by failing to treat the information of people in the UK in a way they were likely to expect or that was fair. The company did not have a process in place to prevent data retention indefinitely, nor did it have a legal reason to collect the information.

Clearview also allegedly failed to meet the higher data protection standards required for biometric data under General Data Protection Regulation and failed to inform people in the UK of what was happening to their customers. data.

The ICO said people who requested deletion of their data may have been dissuaded from responding to the request because Clearview requested additional personal information, including photographs.

Clearview’s free law enforcement trial has been discontinued and the company’s services are no longer offered in the UK.

The review of the company’s UK activity follows revelations in 2020 about its work for US law enforcement.

The ICO said it ordered Clearview to stop further processing of personal data of individuals in the UK and to delete it. He also warned the company of its ‘tentative’ intention to impose a fine of £ 17million for the violations.

Clearview can now intervene with the ICO, which conducted the investigation alongside its Australian counterpart, the OAIC, before a final decision in mid-2022.

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “I am very concerned that personal data has been processed in a way that no one in the UK expected. So it’s only fitting that the ICO is alerting people to the magnitude of this potential violation and the proposed action we are taking. “

Denham added: “The services of Clearview AI Inc are no longer offered in the UK. However, the evidence we have gathered and analyzed suggests that Clearview AI Inc has processed and may continue to process significant volumes of information about UK citizens without their knowledge. We therefore want to assure the British public that we are investigating these alleged violations and taking them very seriously. “

The potential fine for Clearview follows growing concern in the UK over the growing use of biometric technology, including the use of facial recognition systems to accept payments in school canteens.

The Guardian has contacted Clearview for comment.


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