Clearview Won't Use Facial Recognition Technology On Photos Connected To Illinois

Controversial company Clearview AI says it no longer uses facial-recognition technology on photos that appear to be associated with Illinois, and is prohibiting clients from searching photos associated with the state.

The New York-based facial-recognition company says it no longer allows account holders based in Illinois to access photos, and is terminating the accounts of any clients other than law enforcement or government entities.

The company's statements, submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in Chicago, come in response to a lawsuit by Illinois resident David Mutnick. He alleged in a class-action complaint filed earlier this year that Clearview violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to obtain consumers' written consent before compiling scans of their facial geometry.

Mutnick filed suit several days after The New York Times reported that Clearview scraped billions of photos from Twitter, Facebook and other companies, used technology to create a faceprint database, and then sold that database to police departments across the country.

BuzzFeed subsequently reported that Clearview's clients also included private entities, such as Macy’s, and a conservative think tank.

Since news about the facial-recognition company came to light, it has faced criticism by lawmakers, and has been told by Twitter, Google, Facebook and other companies to stop scraping their sites for photos. 

Clearview also faces at least six federal class-action complaints, which were filed separately but may be consolidated in the future.

Last month, Mutnik asked Coleman to issue a pre-trial order requiring the facial-recognition company to stop collecting biometric data about Illinois residents and destroy the data already collected.

Clearview is asking Coleman to reject that request, arguing it's moot because the company already taken the steps Mutnick requested.

“Clearview addressed each and every one of plaintiff’s requested areas of relief,” the company writes. “There is no need to impose an injunction because Clearview will maintain the revised practices until the relevant legal issues are resolved.”

Clearview elaborates that it “has constructed a 'geofence' around Illinois, and will not collect facial vectors from images that contain metadata associating them with Illinois.”

The company also says it won't collect “facial vectors from images stored on servers that are displaying Illinois IP addresses or websites with URLs containing keywords such as 'Chicago' or 'Illinois.'”

Additionally, Clearview says it is implementing an opt-out mechanism that will exclude photos from its database.

The company also argues that because it's based in New York, it isn't subject to the Illinois biometric privacy law.

“This is not a case where an out-of-state company reached into Illinois to collect information from Illinois residents,” it argues. “Likewise, this is not a case where an Illinois resident had an interaction with the defendant in Illinois; in fact, the plaintiff alleges he had no interaction with Clearview anywhere, at all.”

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