back to article Clearview AI sued by ACLU for scraping billions of selfies from social media to power its facial-recog-for-cops system

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Clearview AI for scraping billions of photos from public social media profiles, without people's explicit consent, to train its facial-recognition system. The lawsuit [PDF], filed on Thursday at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, claims Clearview violated the state's …

  1. doublelayer Silver badge

    “Clearview AI is a search engine that uses only publicly available images accessible on the internet. It is absurd that the ACLU wants to censor which search engines people can use to access public information on the internet. The First Amendment forbids this.” (Tor Ekeland)

    Hey. You seem to be missing several important details about reality. Let me inform you about them.

    Search engines don't have full access to everything, nor do they have the rights to any piece of information they find. That falls under other laws, not the first amendment. The first amendment does not allow you to store information you don't have a right to. The first amendment does not allow you to mine biometric information. The first amendment means you can say things and print things, nothing more. Did you sleep through constitutional law class?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Additionally, that publicly available searchable information is all over the place. I'd like to see them do a facial recognition search without taking a copy of and storing all those images, ie "making a copy" for commercial usage as opposed to going off to "look at" each image on it's host server at the time of the search. IIRC, Google got stung a while ago with this sort of data scrape and store and so now only keep a small, relatively poor quality thumbnail and then link to the original if the user wants the larger image, most often to the page and not just the image itself.

  2. A random security guy Bronze badge

    Other tech companies are upset because they could make money of it

    "Tech companies have also tried to thwart Clearview's slurping of photos. In February, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook all served the startup cease-and-desist letters ordering it to stop stealing images from their platforms, and to delete existing pics in its massive database"

    The only reason FB, Twitter, and others will object is if they can't monetize that information they have collected. When was FB ever interested in our privacy? They want to sell our information, pure and simple.

    Even if it breaks the law.

  3. Alan Brown Silver badge

    GDPR

    I wonder how many EU citizens are in Clearview's database without permission - and if Clearview execs - or anyone using their data - is planning to travel to the EU in the reasonable future?

    That customer list looks like pretty reasonable warrant fodder

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: GDPR

      Also DMCA/EUCD

      Copyright law is a thing.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: GDPR

      Yeah, and to find out if we have your data, please send a 5x7 portrait photo, also left and right profiles, your full name and address, any other names you may be known by and previous addresses for the last 15 years.

      Oh yes, if you can get the inside leg measurement of your postman's aunt Bertha, that would be nice too.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: GDPR

        How do you know my postman has an Aunt Bertha - he keeps that very quiet?

  4. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    The US produces a far superior strain of snake oil!

    Accept no substitutes!

    This oil was gathered from genuine snakes. Rubbernecking is not a crime! Even technologically augmented, slomo-enabled, contour-mapping, automatically-collating, market-finding and fractional-distillated rubbernecking is not a crime!

    In fact, it is a constitutionally-protected activity. My right to record as I wish and relay my observations (in whatever way I wish to package them) is INVIOLATE!

    I bring you the white Bronco. I bring you ... FREEDOM!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh0zw6hvqew

    1. Maelstorm Bronze badge
      Trollface

      Re: The US produces a far superior strain of snake oil!

      I bring you the white Bronco. I bring you ... FREEDOM!

      That didn't work out so well for O.J. Simpson.

      <ducks>

  5. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

    The photos were publicly available. There is no law preventing anyone to look at them or store them on their own computers.

    What is illegal is to publish them, but they were not published.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "There is no law preventing anyone to look at them or store them on their own computers."

      In the US maybe not, but in the EU there is (under GDPR, storoge of personal data - publicly accessible or not - is classed as "processing"). There's also the question of whether downloading an image and using it for a commercial purpose is a breach of the photgrapher's copyright.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "There's also the question of whether downloading an image and using it for a commercial purpose is a breach of the photgrapher's copyright."

        That's not a question, it was settled long ago. The answer is "yes" and is why we have image libraries

    2. Kane Silver badge
      Boffin

      "There is no law preventing anyone to look at them or store them on their own computers."

      Well, yes, there is. Maybe you should go back and re-read the article?

      Actually, I'll just quote it here for you, save you the trouble:

      "The lawsuit, filed on Thursday at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, claims Clearview violated the state's stringent Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Companies operating in Illinois must obtain explicit consent from individuals if they collect their biometric data, whether it’s in the form of fingerprints or photographs."

      2nd paragraph.

      Your welcome.

  6. Da Weezil

    In the case of Europe surely this amounts to processing “personally identifiable information” without consent under GPDA?

    There is a need to reign in these tech companies that seem to think they can do whatever suits them with our stuff (like photos that I may post online for whatever reason) for their own benefit and gain, particularly when this stuff is being scraped to be used by a company that 1. I haven’t voluntarily given the “data” to and 2. Has no direct relationship with the original placement site of the data.

    No such thing as a free lunch guys... and I eat expensive when someone else is paying

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "In the case of Europe surely this amounts to processing “personally identifiable information” without consent under GPDA?"

      Based on the following Dutch case, I'm going with "yes": https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52758787

  7. Kane Silver badge
    Boffin

    The First Amendment forbids this.

    The First Amendment forbids this.

    Let's parse that statement, shall we?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof 1; or abridging the freedom of speech 2, or of the press 3; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble 4, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances 5.

    1 - Clearview is not an establishment of Religion, so is not afforded the protection under this description.

    2 - Clearview is not expressing any opinion or making any statements that require the protection afforded under this description.

    3 - Clearview is not a press publication, so is not afforded the protection under this description.

    4 - Clearview is not peacably assembling, or assembling of any sort, so is not afforded the protection under this description (Clearview is also not "the people" so we can double down on that one).

    5 - Clearview is not petitioning the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Now, IANAL, nor am I American, so I can state no claim to the veracity of the above, but the language of the First Amendment is pretty clear. Exactly which onine university did Tor Ekeland get his law degree from, and can I get one too?

  8. RedCardinal

    Taking and using other people's photos without their permission sounds like copyright infringement, never mind anything else.

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