An Australian regulator Wednesday ordered US software company Clearview AI to stop collecting person’s facial images from the internet and destroy the data collected. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk found that Clearview AI breached Australia’s privacy laws through the covert collection of biometric information form the internet and then incorporating it into a facial recognition tool.
According to the regulator, Clearview AI collected Australians’ sensitive information without consent and sold technology that uses the information to law enforcement agencies in Australia. Police forces allegedly used the facial-recognition technology to conduct searches for individuals within Australia.
Aside from the non-consensual collection of information, the OAIC found that Clearview AI breached Australian privacy laws by not taking reasonable steps to ensure that personal information it disclosed was accurate in regards to the purpose of its disclosure. According to Commissioner Falk, Clearview AI’s practices carry “significant risk of harm to individual, including vulnerable groups such as children and victims of crime, whose images can be searched on Clearview AI’s database.” This information “cannot be reissued or cancelled and may also be replicated and used for identity theft.”
This is not the first time Clearview AI has come under scrutiny from regulators. An Illinois court denied the company’s motion to dismiss an ACLU privacy lawsuit alleging the privacy risks posed to individuals outweigh Clearview AI’s First Amendment rights associated with the collection of data. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has conducted an investigation into Clearview AI’s activities in the UK and is preparing to release a decision.
Previously, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada took a similar route as Australia and requested that Clearview AI “cease the collection, use and disclosure of images and biometric facial arrays collected from individuals in Canada” and delete collected images. Clearview AI has since ceased operations in Canada.
Concerns over the improper use of AI facial-recognition technology have increased since Clearview AI first publicly presented the technology in late 2019. Cities like San Fransisco have banned use of the AI facial-recognition technology outright, and the EU recently approved a resolution encouraging its member-states to ban the technology as well. Member of Parliament Peter Vitanov said at the time that “the technology has proven to be ineffective and often leads to discriminatory results.”
Clearview AI intends to appeal the OAIC decision to the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal.