Facial recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to limit customers from using its database of billions of facial images scraped from social media platforms including Facebook and Linkedin.
The New York software developer agreed to block the bulk of all commercial customers from using its database, in order to settle a lawsuit brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The deal does however allow the firm to continue selling access to its facial recognition database to state and federal agencies.
Clearview’s lawyer Floyd Abrams said the settlement will help the firm “avoid a protracted, costly, and distracting legal dispute,” after the ACLU first filed its lawsuit in May 2020 over claims the firm failed to obtain consent in collecting its facial images.
The deal comes after Clearview said in February it is on track to have 100bn facial imprints in its database by 2023 – enough to ensure “almost everyone in the world will be identifiable”.
Clearview’s commercial customers include more than 2,200 police departments, government agencies, and companies across 27 countries, including law firms, banks, and supermarket chains.
In response to news, campaign group Big Brother Watch called on the UK government to ban use of facial recognition technology, as they claimed the situation “remains seriously out of control”.
Speaking to City A.M. Big Brother Watch policy officer Madeleine Stone said: “Clearview AI’s database of billions of faces is incompatible with the most basic expectations of privacy and anonymity in a democracy.”
“While this settlement is a step towards reining in dystopian and discriminatory facial recognition in the US, the situation in the UK remains seriously out of control. Parliament urgently needs to step in and ban facial recognition.
The settlement comes after documents revealed Clearview AI planned to pursue a “rapid international expansion” by marketing its services to countries including the UK, Singapore, and Dubai.