Facial recognition company fined millions for creating a database full of publicly available facial images

Clearview AI Inc faces a £7,552,800 (about $9,5 million) fine for unlawfully collecting images on social media to create a global database that could be furtherly used for facial recognition.

Clearview AI Inc is a facial recognition company that has illegally created a database filled with 20 billion images of people’s faces and data. All of the information was scraped from publicly available social media pages and other Internet sources.

“Clearview AI Inc has collected multiple images of people all over the world, including in the UK, from a variety of websites and social media platforms, creating a database with more than 20 billion images,” John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, said.

He also explained that the firm goes far beyond simply enabling the identification of users but also tracks their digital habits to offer it “as a commercial service.”

“That is unacceptable. That is why we have acted to protect people in the UK by both fining the company and issuing an enforcement notice.”

None of the users were informed about their images and data being used in this way.

Clearview AI Inc offers an app that allows users to upload an image of a person and scan it against the company’s database for similarities. All pictures having matching features then come up and include a link to where they came from.

“People expect that their personal information will be respected, regardless of where in the world their data is being used. That is why global companies need international enforcement. Working with colleagues around the world helped us take this action and protect people from such intrusive activity,” Edwards commented.

Following a joint investigation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ordered the company to stop collecting public data of UK residents and delete all the information currently available in their database.

“This international cooperation is essential to protect people’s privacy rights in 2022. That means working with regulators in other countries, as we did in this case with our Australian colleagues,” Edwards furtherly added.

Despite the fact that the company does not provide services to UK-based organizations anymore, it still holds information about UK citizens and has customers across the globe.