back to article Privacy watchdogs from the UK, Australia team up, snap on gloves to probe AI-for-cops upstart Clearview

Following Canada's lead earlier this week, privacy watchdogs in Britain and Australia today launched a joint investigation into how Clearview AI harvests and uses billions of images it scraped from the internet to train its facial-recognition algorithms. The startup boasted it had collected a database packed with more than …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    Wow..

    "to censor which search engines people can use to access public information on the internet. The First Amendment forbids this."

    Those guys were way ahead of their time if it says a company can scrape images, compiles them then flog them.

    Pretty sure copyright law explicity forbids this. I.e. selling photos you don't have the rights to.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Wow..

      IIRC there was a case in the USA where it was judged that because someone had posted publicly on Instagram they had forfeited their claim to copyright. If that is correct, then this would set a rather uncomfortable precedent.

      Oddly enough, I abandoned Facebook years back when they changed the terms such that any uploaded photo was theirs to do whatever they liked with. It’s bad enough seeing gurning pictures of crims and their victims all over the media, but I imagine they could make some serious profit from Clearview etc.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: selling photos you don't have the rights to

      This has been going on for a couple of decades, if not longer. I had a photo 'scraped' from a website that was used in an online competition by the [redacted][redacted] barstweard and the thing won. I only found out about it a year or so later and because the scumbag lived 5000 miles away taking legal action was next to impossible. After a long exchange of legal letters the photo was removed from the competition website. I had to prove that the photo was mine. Thankfully, I had the negative strip (remember the days of film...?) which was good enough.

      Since then I have not posted any image on the internet that does not have my copyright embedded. Also, I don't post images where individual people can be identified. That saves me a load of grief.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep things to yourself

    Stay as anonymous as possible on the net. False names, disposable e-mail addresses, etc; are the order of the day where ever possible. Never publish an identifiable picture with real humans or their faces visible in it, hard though it may seem to be for some social media addicts to do - or better still, don't use that invention of the devil at all. I never have indulged in so-called social media and never will. Airing dirty linen in public and laying one's soul bare for all to see is sheer folly these days.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Keep things to yourself

      Yes, but you can be as clever as you want - it doesn't help when your "friends" and family just ignore any basic idea of privacy preservation.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rule bending?

    “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.”

    Hmm. Think the major difference here is that Clearview is NOT a publicly available search engine (that is stretching the bounds of credibility a tad!) and is apparently selling what it's seeing! Surely, just because an image can be seen on the internet, that doesn't give anyone carte blanche to scrape it, take it, sell it and make money off the back of the author? I always thought that whoever pressed the shutter button owned the copyright, unless it is part of a commissioned assignment or project carried out by a professional photographer, in which case I believe whoever puts the money down and makes the contract for the work has the copyright. Either way, I would guess that Clearview is trying to bend the rules, somewhat.

    1. BenM 29
      Coat

      Pedant alert...

      "unless it is part of a commissioned assignment or project carried out by a professional photographer, in which case I believe whoever puts the money down and makes the contract for the work has the copyright."

      Not in the UK (I don't _think_ the putative republic of Alba has different laws yet). Unless the copyright is specifically assigned, copyright remains with the photographer regardless of why the picture was taken.

      For example I pay the Bounty photographer for pictures of my crotch goblins in hospital... unless Bounty specifcally give me permission I cannot legally get copies of those pictures made by a third party. As it happens the last lot came with a 'here are the pictures as full resolution JPG (yes... I know), you have permsiion to do with them as you will' letter as well as the download link.

      coat becasue who needs to know about crotch goblins in an IT thread?

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Opt out ?

    I never feckin' opted in!

    I don't understand how posting my photo on social media can mean I no longer have copyright over it, when, if I post a copy of someone else's copyrighted work they can sue me.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Opt out ?

      "I don't understand how posting my photo on social media can mean I no longer have copyright over it"

      You do still have copyright, although if you posted it through a company they might assume copyright, take a non-exclusive licence, or something similar.

      "if I post a copy of someone else's copyrighted work they can sue me."

      This is like saying 'if I leave my laptop outside the house with a 'this is free' sign outside then that's fine, but when I take someone else's laptop and do that, I'm suddenly a criminal'.

    2. nematoad Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Opt out ?

      "Individuals in these countries can opt-out."

      Oh. And what if the individual is unaware that their likeness has been scraped?

      I have no "social media" presence so have not uploaded any photos of myself or others. But other people I may or may not know might. So my photo may be available to the like of Clearview but how am I to exercise my right to "opt-out" if I don't know about the photo?

      This is just a fig-leaf to cover what is likely to be activity falling foul of the GDPR in the hopes that everyone will forget about it and allow Clearview to pursue its obviously lucrative but very dodgy practices

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Opt out ?

        > So my photo may be available to the like of Clearview but how am I to exercise my right to "opt-out" if I don't know about the photo?

        When Clearview first came on the radar, I had a quick look at their opt-out.

        The way it works is you provide an image of yourself, they process it, store it and then ignore any images they feel are a good match for you.

        Meaning they've now got an image which is verified as being you, and I'm sure some "upper tier" payment plan will allow that to be returned still despite claims to the contrary.

        If you want to know what (if anything) they've got on you, then you need to do a data-access request. At which point they'll want a photo *and* ID

        They'll let you deindex images/urls but only if they've been taken down from the net. They don't honour robots.txt either....

        They come across as the sort of company where it seems like the safest thing to do is not contact them, and wait for the authorities to smoosh them instead

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Opt out ?

          "and I'm sure some "upper tier" payment plan will allow that to be returned still despite claims to the contrary."

          Not to mention the Patriot Act.

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Opt out ?

      I don't understand how posting my photo on social media can mean I no longer have copyright over it

      You do still have copyright of it - but you no longer have any rights whatsoever as to what it may now be used for. By your own admission you posted an image, therefore you must have signed up to an account - and accepted the T&Cs. You did read the T&Cs didn't you ? No ? Well that's your own fault then.

      Typically when you sign up you either assign copyright, or more normally grant the site full rights to do whatever they like with it. That's the bit typically worded along the lines of "you grant ${business} a global licence to use, redistribute, sell, edit, or repurpose the image for any use they want".

      This made the TV news a few years ago when someone found their photo being used in an advert in their local bus shelter - turns out they'd not read the T&Cs of a photo sharing website, and the site had licensed the photo to the company doing the advertising. All completely legal - but IIRC the advertiser did remove their photo and use a different one for any new material.

  5. Falmari
    Black Helicopters

    Be very afraid

    It must break EU (not sure about others) privacy laws because they are indexing and storing the data.

    But this statement “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." got me thinking.

    Say it was possible to search the internet and perform the image recognition of publicly available images and do it in a reasonable time. Then every image that matched they just return the page url. Would that break privacy laws? I don’t think it would, it is all publicly available and data is not stored. I find that a very frightening thought.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do I ENFORCE my copyright?

    So...I post an image somewhere.

    *

    Then some scumbag scrapes the image and uses it for some commercial purpose.

    *

    How do I know? How do I enforce my copyright? There's NO CHANCE that I will know...no chance of any possibility of enforcing copyright.

    *

    Best possibility....stay away from the internet!

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: How do I ENFORCE my copyright?

      Well you could sell your soul and sign up with one of the devils (Google) who do actually offer a service for that. You upload a photo (or video I believe) and they'll notify you if they find it elsewhere. But of course, once you find out, your rights are not very enforceable unless the culprit is in the same jurisdiction as you AND that jurisdiction is friendly to copyright holders.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020