11/29/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/29/2021 10:50
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has today announced its provisional intent to impose a potential fine of just over £17 million on Clearview AI Inc - a company that describes itself as the 'World's Largest Facial Network'. In addition, the ICO has issued a provisional notice to stop further processing of the personal data of people in the UK and to delete it following alleged serious breaches of the UK's data protection laws.
Today's announcement follows a joint investigation by the ICO and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), which focused on Clearview AI Inc's use of images, data scraped from the internet and the use of biometrics for facial recognition. Customers of Clearview AI Inc can also provide an image to the company to carry out biometric searches, including facial recognition searches, on their behalf to identify relevant facial image results against a database of over 10 billion images.
The images in Clearview AI Inc's database are likely to include the data of a substantial number of people from the UK and may have been gathered without people's knowledge from publicly available information online, including social media platforms. The ICO also understands that the service provided by Clearview AI Inc was used on a free trial basis by a number of UK law enforcement agencies, but that this trial was discontinued and Clearview AI Inc's services are no longer being offered in the UK.
The ICO's preliminary view is that Clearview AI Inc appears to have failed to comply with UK data protection laws in several ways including by:
Clearview AI Inc now has the opportunity to make representations in respect of these alleged breaches set out in the Commissioner's Notice of Intent and Preliminary Enforcement Notice. Any representations will be carefully considered by the Information Commissioner before any final decision is made. As a result, the proposed fine and preliminary enforcement notice may be subject to change or no further formal action. We expect to make a final decision by mid-2022.
The ICO's announcement follows the conclusion of the OAIC's investigation earlier this month that found Clearview AI Inc in breach of Australian Privacy laws.
Announcing today's provisional decision, the UK Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said:
"I have significant concerns that personal data was processed in a way that nobody in the UK will have expected. It is therefore only right that the ICO alerts people to the scale of this potential breach and the proposed action we're taking. UK data protection legislation does not stop the effective use of technology to fight crime, but to enjoy public trust and confidence in their products technology providers must ensure people's legal protections are respected and complied with.
"Clearview AI Inc's services are no longer being offered in the UK. However, the evidence we've gathered and analysed suggests Clearview AI Inc were and may be continuing to process significant volumes of UK people's information without their knowledge. We therefore want to assure the UK public that we are considering these alleged breaches and taking them very seriously."