Clearview AI, a controversial face recognition software company, agreed Monday that it will not sell its software to most companies in the United States – a decision that will severely limit its use to the country’s law enforcement agencies.
The agreement is part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the company in Illinois state court two years ago by American Civil Liberties Union and several other nonprofits.
New York-based Clearview has also agreed to a deal that it will not offer free trials of its software to individual officers without the signature of their superiors. In Illinois itself, Clearview has been banned from selling its software, including state or local law enforcement agencies, for five years, according to the agreement.
Clearview has told CNN Business in the past that it has restricted the use of its software to law enforcement; by settlement this previously voluntary decision becomes a condition.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2020, alleging that Clearview violated the Illinois Biometrics Privacy Act (BIPA) which requires companies to obtain people’s consent before collecting or using their biometric data. Illinois is one of only a few states in the United States that has such biometric privacy laws (Texas and Washington, for example, have their own rules).
“Clearview AI’s position regarding sales to private entities remains unchanged,” Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI, said in a statement. “We would only sell to private entities in a way that is in line with BIPA. Our database is only available to government agencies to solve crimes. ”
Face recognition software has become more common in the United States in recent years, but has also been attacked by privacy and digital rights groups over privacy issues and other real and potential threats. The settlement is the latest signal that opponents of technology are getting stronger.
“It’s a win for Illinois residents; it’s a victory for people across the country in protecting their privacy, ”Nate Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told CNN Business.
Founded in 2017, Clearview has collected billions of photos into a database for its software, which can be used on a smartphone to identify individuals. The company claimed to have extracted more than 20 billion photos from the Internet, including photos from popular social media platforms, news sites, photo sites and more – making it bigger than any other known database such images.
Large technology companies have sent termination notices to the company in the past, claiming that its photography practices violate their terms of service, and several lawsuits have been filed against the company over the use of surveillance technology. Clearview software has been found to be illegal in some countries, including Canada and Australia.
The company said its current customers include more than 3,100 U.S. agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. A June 2021 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, based on a survey of 42 federal agencies, says 10 agencies used Clearview AI between April 2018 and March 2020, including the FBI, Secret Service, DEA and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. And. (The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, for example, told GAO that it used Clearview AI software to find suspects in crimes such as theft and opening of mail and theft from postal service buildings.)