Clearview AI Hit With Biometric Privacy Lawsuit

Clearview AI, a start-up that reportedly sells "faceprint" databases to police departments, has been hit with a potential class-action lawsuit.

The company scraped billions of photos from Twitter, Facebook and other companies, used technology to create a faceprint database, then sold that database to police departments across the country, according to an explosive report Sunday in The New York Times.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Illinois, state resident David Mutnick accuses Clearview of violating the state's biometric privacy law. That measure, considered one of the strongest in the country, requires companies to obtain consumers' written consent before compiling their faceprints.

“Without obtaining any consent and without notice, Defendant Clearview used the internet to covertly gather information on millions of American citizens, collecting approximately three billion pictures of them, without any reason to suspect any of them of having done anything wrong, ever,” Mutnick alleges in the complaint. “After obtaining these images, Clearview used artificial intelligence algorithms to scan the facial geometry of each individual depicted in the images, a technique that violates multiple privacy laws.”

Mutnick, who is represented by the Chicago civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, is seeking damages and a court order requiring Clearview to not only stop selling the material, but also expunge it.

Mutnick's lawsuit appears to be the first one against Clearview, but it likely won't be the last.

Attorney Jay Edelson, who has brought numerous privacy cases against Silicon Valley businesses, says he also expects to file suit against the company.

“What Clearview is doing is really game changing, in terms of individual autonomy and freedom,” he tells MediaPost. “And it's really scary that a startup -- just a couple of people -- can just change America.”

He adds that his goal would be to obtain a court order shuttering Clearview.

“I do not believe that what they're doing is proper, and we feel very good about being able to explain that to a court,” he says.

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