from the about-face dept.
Facial recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to restrict the use of its massive collection of face images to settle allegations that it collected people's photos without their consent:
The company in a legal filing Monday agreed to permanently stop selling access to its face database to private businesses or individuals around the U.S., putting a limit on what it can do with its ever-growing trove of billions of images pulled from social media and elsewhere on the internet.
The settlement — which must be approved by a county judge in Chicago — will end a 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups over alleged violations of an Illinois digital privacy law. The company still faces a separate privacy case before a federal judge in Illinois.
Clearview is also agreeing to stop making its database available to Illinois state government and local police departments for five years. The New York-based company will continue offering its services to federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and to other law enforcement agencies and government contractors outside of Illinois.
[...] The settlement document says Clearview continues to deny and dispute the claims brought by the ACLU and other plaintiffs. But even before Monday's settlement, the case has been curtailing some of the company's controversial business practices.
Clearview AI's co-founder Hoan Ton-That recently defended his startup's use of controversial facial recognition software:
If you're skeptical about whether your company will ever use facial recognition technology as a business tool, you're not alone. Perhaps the most prominent facial recognition technology provider in the world, Clearview AI, has attracted significant criticism and raised ethical concerns even as it has been used by law enforcement.
In a live interview with the Washington Post last week, New York-based Clearview AI's co-founder and CEO Hoan Ton-That addressed questions about the ethical and legal implications of his software, which became first known to many Americans when a billionaire used it to identify his daughter's dinner date, and for the involvement of far-right individuals in the creation of the company. Pressed on questions about the legal and ethical choices his firm has made while creating a searchable database of 20 billion facial images, Ton-That repeatedly brought up examples where the use cases of Clearview AI's technology would look better in the public eye, mentioning its use in helping catch criminals in child pornography and child abuse cases. Ton-That also pointed to the use of Clearview AI's technology by the Ukrainian government to identify dead Russian soldiers, for notifying their families of their passing.
While Clearview AI has some 20 billion facial images to feed its current product, the dataset is being used only by governments so far. "There's no non-governmental use of this dataset at this time," Ton-That said, adding that "we've developed as prototypes different versions of our technology for retail and banking."
Ton-That went on to say he welcomes regulation and his company will not do business with governments he described as "authoritarian."
Originally spotted on The Eponymous Pickle.
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