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UK and Australian data regulators to probe Clearview AI

Written by Thu 9 Jul 2020

Clearview’s facial recognition software, popular with law enforcement, uses images scraped from the internet and social media

Data regulators in the UK and Australia have announced a joint investigation into practices of facial recognition app Clearview AI.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) said they are looking into the firm’s use of data “scraped” from the internet.

Clearview AI uses its facial recognition software to help law enforcement match photos of unknown people to other images online by using the company’s database of photos which have been taken from publicly accessible social media platforms, including Facebook, and other websites.

The controversial system has raised questions about privacy and consent to data gathering but has been used by a number of law enforcement agencies in the US.

A report by Buzzfeed earlier this year also claimed that a number of UK law enforcement agencies had registered with Clearview, including the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency as well as other regional police forces.

At the time, the Met denied it had used Clearview’s services.

Clearview’s founder, Hoan Ton-That, has previously described the app as “a search engine for publicly available images”, but the company says it is not a tool available to the public.

“The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have opened a joint investigation into the personal information handling practices of Clearview AI Inc, focusing on the company’s use of ‘scraped’ data and biometrics of individuals,” the regulators said in a statement.

“The investigation highlights the importance of enforcement co-operation in protecting the personal information of Australian and UK citizens in a globalised data environment.”

Clearview has not yet commented on the launch of the investigation.

Written by Thu 9 Jul 2020


facial recognition privacy
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