Facial-Recognition Company Clearview Settles Privacy Class-Action

Facial-recognition company Clearview AI has agreed to settle a class-action privacy lawsuit, according to court records posted Friday.

Details of the proposed settlement are not yet available.

If approved by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in the Northern District of Illinois, the deal will resolve allegations that Clearview violated a biometric privacy law in Illinois, as well as laws in California, New York and Virginia.

The company reportedly scraped billions of photos from Twitter, Facebook and other social-media platforms; used technology to create a faceprint database; and sold that database to police departments, other agencies and private companies like Macy's.

In early 2020, soon after The New York Times reported on Clearview's business practices, the company was sued by consumers, the American Civil Liberties Union and other nonprofits, and the Vermont Attorney General.



Officials in other countries, including Australia and Canada, also moved against the company.

Company founder Hoan Ton-That previously said through a spokesperson that Clearview helped law enforcement solve “heinous crimes against children, seniors and other victims of unscrupulous acts.”

Last year, Clearview settled with the ACLU by agreeing to permanently refrain from selling people's faceprints to most private businesses. That settlement also prohibits the company from making its database accessible to police or governmental agencies in Illinois for a five-year period.

The U.S. residents' lawsuits were consolidated into a class-action complaint in Illinois. That complaint includes claims that Clearview violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to obtain users' consent to the collection of biometric identifiers such as scans of facial geometry.

The complaint also alleges that Clearview violated state statutes in California, New York and Virginia -- including laws that give residents the right to control the commercial use of their images.

Clearview lost a key battle in the case last year, when Coleman rejected the company's argument that it has a First Amendment right to collect and use publicly available photos that appear online.

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