Australia’s national privacy regulator has ordered Clearview AI to delete all facial recognition data belonging to Australian citizens.
The Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) on Wednesday mentioned on its website, Clearview had violated Australians’ privacy by scraping their biometric information from the web. It further disclosed this information via a facial recognition tool built on a vast database of photos scraped from Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other websites.
OAIC head Angelene Falk in a statement said, “When Australians use social media or professional networking sites, they don’t expect their facial images to be collected without their consent by a commercial entity to create biometric templates for completely unrelated identification purposes. The indiscriminate scraping of people’s facial images, only a fraction of whom would ever be connected with law enforcement investigations, may adversely impact the personal freedoms of all Australians who perceive themselves to be under surveillance.”
Mark Love, Clearview’s attorney, made it clear the company has not violated any law nor has it interfered with the privacy of Australians. According to him, “Clearview AI does not do business in Australia, does not have any Australian users.”
Earlier in August Clearview AI’s own internal data showed how the New York-based startup distributed its facial recognition tool as part of marketing free trials for its mobile app or desktop software to thousands of officers and employees at more than 1,800 US taxpayer-funded entities. Further investigations in August revealed that police departments, prosecutors’ offices, universities, and interior ministries worldwide ran nearly 14,000 searches over the same period with Clearview AI’s software.
Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That has supported Clearview’s practice of scraping images and other data from social media sites is entirely legal. He further said, “We only collect public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law. I respect the time and effort that the Australian officials spent evaluating aspects of the technology I built. But I am disheartened by the misinterpretation of its value to society.”