March 27, 2024

Clearview AI Triumphs in UK Court Over GDPR Accusations, Faces Legal Precedent

Clearview AI, the U.S. surveillance and facial recognition company, has successfully appealed a legal case in the United Kingdom, where it was accused of violating the country’s general data protection regulation (GDPR). Initially, in May 2022, the company faced a substantial fine of nearly $10 million for breaching the U.K.’s GDPR. This recent victory means that the fine will be revoked unless the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decides to challenge the ruling further.

According to a U.K. court tribunal led by Tribunal Judge Lynn Griffin, whether Clearview AI-referred to as ‘CV’ in official documents, violated GDPR is irrelevant due to the limitations of applying GDPR to foreign companies. The court documents released on October 17th made it clear that the issue of whether CV had infringed GDPR articles, as alleged or at all, was not under consideration. This would be the subject of a substantive hearing if the case were to proceed. Despite the vast number of images in Clearview AI’s facial recognition and AI surveillance system, which may include data sourced from publicly accessible internet repositories in the U.K., the U.K.’s ICO lacks jurisdiction to extend GDPR protection to its citizens in this particular case.

The court document specifically points out that Clearview AI is a foreign company providing its services to foreign clients using foreign IP addresses, primarily in support of national security and criminal law enforcement functions beyond the U.K.’s borders. This implies that the court’s approval of the appeal sets a legal precedent restricting the enforcement of GDPR within the U.K.’s jurisdiction to companies operating solely within the U.K.

In contrast, Clearview AI has faced legal action and fines in Europe under the European Union’s GDPR, resulting in penalties in countries such as France, Italy, and Greece. Notably, the local police authority in Sweden was fined over $300,000 for the unauthorized use of Clearview AI products in 2021. However, Clearview AI has, in some instances, resisted complying with court orders, including a $20 million fine for GDPR breaches in France in October 2022, which remained unpaid as of May 2023.

Clearview AI holds a unique position in the U.S. tech landscape. Despite ongoing allegations that its software and services infringe on the civil rights and privacy rights of U.S. citizens, its strong connections with law enforcement have provided it with a level of protection that some experts argue is inconsistent with U.S. laws against unwarranted surveillance and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for most individuals to have their data removed from Clearview AI’s databases and systems.

According to Clearview AI’s Privacy Policy, only residents of specific states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, and Virginia, are currently eligible to request access, opt-out, or deletion of their data. Individuals residing outside these areas have no explicit recourse to have their images, likenesses, and other data removed from the company’s dataset. The same document states that Clearview AI may have sold this category of personal information, such as face vectors and photographs, to law enforcement, government agencies, authorized contractors, security professionals, and national security entities.

Residents in the mentioned U.S. states who wish to opt-out must provide a headshot photograph, verify their government-issued identification, and provide any additional information requested by the company for their removal request to be reviewed.

Image by freepik

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