UK Information Rights Regulator Fines US Face Recognition Developer

A U.K. office in charge of protecting information rights has fined a facial recognition company from the United States for exploiting photos of individuals in the U.K. and elsewhere to construct without their consent a worldwide online database that could potentially be used to monitor people or sold to other companies.

Face RecognitionA U.S. facial recognition technologies developer allegedly illegally used internet, social networks, to collect more than 20 billion images of people worldwide. (Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay, License)The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined Clearview AI Inc 7,552,800 British pounds (US$9.5 million) for collecting more than 20 billion images of people’s faces and data from publicly available information on the internet and social media platforms around the world to create an online database, ICO said in a statement on Tuesday.

“People were not informed that their images were being collected or used in this way,” said the statement.

“The company not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service. That is unacceptable,” the U.K. Information Commissioner, John Edwards, said.

Clearview Al, which no longer provides services in the U.K., had a service that allowed users, including the police, to upload an image of a person to the company’s app, which was then searched for a match against all the photographs in the database.

The app would then provide a list of photographs with comparable features to the photo given by the consumer, along with a link to the websites where those images were obtained.

“Given the high number of U.K. internet and social media users, Clearview AI Inc’s database is likely to include a substantial amount of data from U.K. residents, which has been gathered without their knowledge,” ICO warned.

Therefore, the U.K. information rights watchdog also issued an enforcement notice, directing the U.S. firm to stop accessing and processing personal data of U.K. residents publicly available on the internet, as well as to remove U.K. residents’ data from its systems.

The ICO action followed a joint investigation with the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) into Clearview AI Inc’s exploitation of people’s images, data scraping from the internet, and use of biometric data for face recognition.

Commissioner Edwards stressed that people want their personal information to be protected, regardless of where it is utilized and that’s why multinational corporations require worldwide enforcement.

“This international cooperation is essential to protect people’s privacy rights in 2022,” he said.

He noted that international collaboration entails collaborating with regulators in other nations, such as the Australian authorities on the Clearview case. Edwards also stated that he will meet with European regulators in Brussels to explore collaboration in combating global privacy problems.