UK and Australia launch joint probe into Clearview AI’s mass data scraping

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The UK and Australia have launched a joint probe into the controversial “data scraping” practices of Clearview AI.

Clearview AI has repeatedly made headlines, and rarely for good reason. The company’s facial recognition technology is impressive but relies on scraping billions of people’s data from across the web.

“Common law has never recognised a right to privacy for your face,” Clearview AI lawyer Tor Ekeland argued recently.

Regulators in the UK and Australia seem to have a different perspective than Ekeland and have announced a joint probe into Clearview AI’s practices.

“The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have opened a joint investigation into the personal information handling practices of Clearview Inc., focusing on the company’s use of ‘scraped’ data and biometrics of individuals,” the ICO wrote in a statement.

“The investigation highlights the importance of enforcement cooperation in protecting the personal information of Australian and UK citizens in a globalized data environment.”

A similar probe was launched by the EU’s privacy watchdog last month.

The European Data Protection Board ruled that any use of the service by law enforcement in Europe would “likely not be consistent with the EU data protection regime” and that it “has doubts as to whether any Union or Member State law provides a legal basis for using a service such as the one offered by Clearview AI.”

Clearview AI’s facial recognition system is used by over 2,200 law enforcement agencies around the world. A recent leak suggests it’s even being used by commercial businesses like Best Buy and Macy’s. In May, Clearview said it would stop working with non–law enforcement entities.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched a lawsuit against Clearview AI in May after calling it a “nightmare scenario” for privacy.

Aside from the company’s practices, concerns have been raised about Clearview AI’s extensive ties with the far-right. Ekeland himself has gained notoriety as “The Troll’s Lawyer” for defending clients such as neo-Nazi troll Andrew Auernheimer.

“Companies like Clearview will end privacy as we know it, and must be stopped,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

(Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash)

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