Facial recognition surveillance company Clearview AI has agreed to permanently ban most private companies from using its service under a court settlement. The agreement, filed in Illinois court today, would settle a 2020 American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that alleged the company had built its business on facial recognition data taken without user consent. The agreement formalizes measures Clearview had already taken and shields the company from further ACLU suits under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
As part of the settlement, Clearview agrees to a permanent nationwide injunction restricting its sale (or free distribution) of access to a vast database of face photographs — many of which were originally scraped from social networks like Facebook. The injunction bars the company from dealing with most private businesses and individuals nationwide, including government employees who aren’t acting on behalf of their employers. It also can’t deal with any Illinois state or local government agency for five years. On top of attempting to remove any photographs of Illinois residents, it must maintain an opt-out program for residents who want to block any searches using their face or prevent any collection of their photographs.
The ACLU hailed the settlement as a victory. “By requiring Clearview to comply with Illinois’ pathbreaking biometric privacy law not just in the state, but across the country, this settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse,” said ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project deputy director Nathan Freed Wessler. “Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unrestricted source of profit. Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead in enacting strong biometric privacy laws.”