back to article Facial recog firm Clearview hit with complaints in France, Austria, Italy, Greece and the UK

Data rights groups have filed complaints in the UK, France, Austria, Greece and Italy against Clearview AI, claiming its scraped and searchable database of biometric profiles breaches both the EU and UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The facial recognition company, which is based in the US, claims to have “the …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Who hasn't?

    '“Clearview seems to misunderstand the internet as a homogeneous and fully public forum where everything is up for grabs” '

    Hasn't almost every "digital service" done just the same? Goooooooooooooooooooogle, Farcebook, and all the rest.

    Unfortunately, this misunderstanding actually reflects the original ethos immediately post-arpanet - a time when we (briefly) thought we could trust each other to play fair.

    1. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Who hasn't?

      That's just the normal human way.

      Indeed, it's a cornerstone of open and caring human societies. Just think of places where the assumption of trust and good intentions of fellow citizens don't apply and how much you wouldn't want to live there.

      I would rather follow a path of assuming trust and dealing with the occasional consequences of that assumption, than sinking into a paranoid pool of hopelessness. The internet is on the whole a wondrous tool of human invention. It also brings along all of our human strengths and weaknesses. We just have to learn how to deal with both, whilst along the way endeavoring not to fall into patterns of behavior that could be characterized as blind faith or rampant anxiety.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Who hasn't?

        "open and caring human societies"

        Which ones are these then? I am not aware of any...

      2. ThatOne Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Who hasn't?

        > sinking into a paranoid pool of hopelessness

        It's called "getting older"...

        I was a humanist too when I was young, believing in humanity, the goodness in people, and all that. Unfortunately I've been cured of that illusion quite quickly. Humans are like rats, they will happily cheat, steal, maim and kill if only it brings them some minor profit or even just some satisfaction. That's why we have to have religions, laws and all those strong moral guidelines telling us it's not okay to do things to other we wouldn't want them to do to us. Or else.

        Did upvote you for the spirit though...

        1. Julz Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Who hasn't?

          Thanks for the up vote.

          I'm quite old too. I would say I'm a cautious optimist when it comes to human interaction. Yep people will do whatever is necessary to survive or better their position if they feel threatened. This usually involves getting one over each another. However, given enough resource, most, will behave courteously. Some will do so despite personal hardship.

          As for the moral laws handed down via religion, I feel we would be better off without most of them. The core philosophy of many religions seem on the face of it to be sound, but the way they are interpreted not so much. The same can be said for governmental edicts. Both seem to be used as means of defining us from them, which in my book, is a very slippery slope and cause of most strife in the world.

          It would be better if we just all acknowledged that we are all human and therefor all us.

          Hum, I feel like I need to get irrationally angry about something now. Hey you, get off my lawn....

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Oh the irony...

    "Google, Twitter, Facebook and even Venmo all sent cease and desist letters to Clearview "

    AKA "stop infringing our prerogative on data slurping!"

    1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

      Re: Oh the irony...

      My mate made a good living robbing our neighbours, so why can't I.

      Makes total sense.

  3. naive Silver badge

    Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

    That "data protection" movement is filing lawsuits against a company which provides services to law enforcement agencies who want to find a suspect using an image which was taken during the time that suspect was present in a situation when a crime was committed.

    Even worse, they ask that Europeans are removed from the database, in case an European gets caught in a security camera shot, information helping to identify those suspects shouldn't be available to law enforcement.

    This is nothing more but the usual leftist crap rampant in European politics, let the criminals go free under the banner of "data protection".

    Just the working middle class needs to be squeezed dry for taxes in order to pay the salaries and social benefits of all those leftist leeches.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      @naive

      Well done for choosing a user name that is totally appropriate to your thinking.

    2. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      Did you not read the detail? The problem is not "footage from security cameras" - it's images scraped from everywhere.

      So you're happy with Chinese-style pervasive surveillance then? Just in case somebody somewhere commits a crime?

      I will not agree to having my every move recorded, never mind kept forever. They can fuck off with keeping any footage of me. I refuse to accept pervasive surveillance. I believe in the "innocent until proven guilty" principle. You clearly have the opposite idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

        "I will not agree to having my every move recorded"

        You don't really have much choice unless you get a suit like in A Scanner Darkly.

        And it's only getting worse with bullshit like vaccine passports.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

          "And it's only getting worse with bullshit like vaccine passports."

          Print your own. The best way is to get the layout from a different country and use that. Who's going to know how to check?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

            that obviously happens. Like the plane from India to HongKong full of people that tested Covid negative, and suddenly dozens are positive a few hours later when they land and are retested.

            I'm sure the same has happened in the UK, and people not staying isolated either. Hence the risk of extended lock down due to the new Indian variant.

    3. fix

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      Unfortunately I can only down vote you once.

      My privacy should be my choice.

    4. Oh Matron!

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      You are Teresa May / Patel, and I claim my £5

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

        Actually, you could add Jack Straw and David Blunkett to the list

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

          And probably every other Home Secretary who had the opportunity, no matter what they said before they became Home Secretary. Coincidentally the 'Yes Minister' episode 'The Death List' was repeated this week...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      Law and Order - but Clearview believes it should get a free pass huh?

      Doesn't that make Clearview the leach?

      1. OldGuit

        Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

        "Doesn't that make Clearview the leach?"

        Err.... 'leech' ?

    6. not.known@this.address Silver badge

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      Upvoted for pointing out the idiocy of removing ALL images from their database, but the problem is that most of those images will be of people who have not and do not intend to go out and commit crime. Clearview should not be allowed to profit off sharing MY image with law enforcement groups on the off-chance I might, one day, break the law.

      It is not just "leftist crap", it is a valid concern for the law-abiding amongst us and on top of which it's a a damn liberty - why should they get all the money?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

        "Idiocy" would be in not suing Clearview out of existence.

    7. ThatOne Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      > information helping to identify those suspects

      I have a similar but more efficient solution for your "working middle class, squeezed dry by all those leftist leeches" security problem: Put everybody in jail, right now! So if somebody eventually decides to steal the hubcaps off your car, he'll be already in the slammer.

      Well, you would imprison a couple million innocents too, but since you're clearly an stanch advocate of "can't make omelet without breaking eggs", that shouldn't bother you too much.

    8. Robert D Bank

      Re: Clearview provides search services to law enforcement agencies

      So I assume you wouldn't mind law enforcement officers images being in there then, so when they shoot or suffocate someone illegally they can be identified? And the super rich, politicians, armed forces personnel and spy agency members images so if they're seen doing something illegal they can be arrested? And of course it's not problematic at all having children's photo's in there is it? Jeez.

      Nope, I bet you NONE or very few of the above, except children, will be in this database. Even if they are they'd be excluded from the search because 'money and influence etc'. It'll be joe average including working class because they're less likely to argue against it, and therefore will be disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

      Clearview can fuck right off, they are in it for the money, end of.

  4. b0llchit Silver badge
    Holmes

    Only one bad actor?

    Clearview AI told The Reg it "has never had any contracts with any EU customer and is not currently available to EU customers."

    Translation: We, Clearview, don't give a fuck about your complaints. You have no contracts with us and you were stupid enough to put something visible on the internet. Now, go away and sob somewhere else.

    Ok, but that just covers Clearview. Lets talk about Google and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft and Apple and all those others, shall we? Every single one of them gives us the same stinky-finger when we want them to leave any of our data alone. All these companies have made a living (and a fortune) from taking other's data. They all should be held accountable and the bosses/leaders should be held personally accountable.

    1. KBeee Bronze badge

      Re: Only one bad actor?

      "has never had any contracts with any EU customer and is not currently available to EU customers."

      i.e. Hasn't actually SOLD their crap to a European agency yet, but has given them a free trial, which they hope will lead to sales.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Only one bad actor?

        And is quite likely letting European agencies work through proxies, just as US ones often do.

  5. alain williams Silver badge

    Copyright as well as data protection

    Who owns the copyright on the images that they have downloaded, do they have permission to keep them ?

    Granted that most of the big Internet corporations ignore copyright (unless you are breaching theirs) but that does not mean that the question should not be asked.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Copyright as well as data protection

      The person who took the photograph generally has and retains copyright of that image unless they have explicitly given it away. However, many web sites require you to agree to T&Cs that revoke your copyright before you upload any image to the site.

      1. usbac

        Re: Copyright as well as data protection

        Yes, but you are only relinquishing your copyright to THAT particular data slurper. You are holding THEM harmless with regard to your copyright.

        You are not providing any sort of license to these leeches to use your photograph for commercial purposes.

        I would love to see some lawyer sue the crap out of these assholes for copyright infringement on behalf of each of the 3+ Billion copyright holders. I would think about $100 per infringement would be fair compensation to the copyright holders? The lawyer could keep 50% as usual for their services. That should be enough incentive to keep a few lawyers working hard on this case...

        1. not.known@this.address Silver badge

          Re: Copyright as well as data protection

          "I would think about $100 per infringement would be fair compensation to the copyright holders? "

          Unfortunately those "copyright holders" would be the apps Clearview acquired the images from, not the people who took the pics in the first place. So all that money would be split between the lawyers and the Social Media companies who suffered such a great loss of their private data.

          Damn, where's that Sarcasm tag gone.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Copyright as well as data protection

            The big social media companies do not get your copyright rights. They get a right to use your uploaded images, but A) that doesn't give them ownership and B) it does not extend to others. Their terms of service will include statements to that effect. I've already confirmed the major ones have such clauses.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Copyright as well as data protection

          "You are not providing any sort of license to these leeches to use your photograph for commercial purposes.'

          Read the T&C's again. You do confer unlimited rights if you post something to nearly all social media sites.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    “the largest known database of 3+ billion facial images”

    Way to go to boast about how much personal data you obtained without consent in a post-GDPR era.

    On top of that, way to go to demonstrate how little you understand of the functioning of Google. Google does not have the image stored in its databases, it has the link to the image, and the metadata surrounding it.

    Might not be better, but at least Google cannot show you the image if the host removes it. You can.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Clearview AI has never had any contracts with any EU customer"

    It's not the Customers that are the problem.

    It's the Data Subjects' Rights.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: "Clearview AI has never had any contracts with any EU customer"

      And copyright owners' rights.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: "Clearview AI has never had any contracts with any EU customer"

      To be fair, Clearview's customers are problems too. They're just not the only problem.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Cleaview answer is BS

    From https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection/reform/rules-business-and-organisations/application-regulation/who-does-data-protection-law-apply_en:

    "The GDPR applies to:

    a company or entity which processes personal data as part of the activities of one of its branches established in the EU, regardless of where the data is processed; or

    a company established outside the EU and is offering goods/services (paid or for free) or is monitoring the behaviour of individuals in the EU."

    Learn to read before throwing your PR BS at us. Thx.

  9. katrinab Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Has anyone tried filing a DMCA takedown notice against them?

    Seems like a clear-cut case of copyright violation. That might work more effectively than the GDPR.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone tried filing a DMCA takedown notice against them?

      The problem is that you don't know for sure whether a given picture of you is in their database. They don't have that information available, and therefore you can't give them a reference to the data that violates. You could still make a case under some cases, but first you need a copy of the data they have on you, which you can only get if there's a law requiring that and they're obeying that law.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Has anyone tried filing a DMCA takedown notice against them?

        @doublelayer

        Quote: "The problem is that you don't know...."

        That's the fundamental problem with GDPR and all the other debates about privacy. An individual has no idea:

        1. Of the complete list of who's been slurping up PII (text, database records, photos, videos, CCTV captures.......)

        2. Of the complete list of hacked PII (see Experian and no doubt thousands of other targets)

        3. Of the complete list of where the data in items #1 and #2 has ended up through packaging and selling on (see Cambridge Analytica, TOR, etc., etc.)

        4. .......and so on.

        How can anyone demand that PII be deleted given items #1 through #3? GDPR........it's (still) a joke!!!!!

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Has anyone tried filing a DMCA takedown notice against them?

          The big issue with FB v. Cambridge Analytica is that FB wasn't paid for the data. FB makes the bulk of their money from selling PII. They make money from advertising as well, but it's not the biggest goose in that coup.

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Copyright Infringement

    If the image has been registered with US Library of Congress, someone could sue them for significant change and court costs in Feraldom.

    1. usbac

      Re: Copyright Infringement

      You don't need to have registered your photograph to claim copyright. By law you have up to 12 months to register the copyright on any work you create. Its called common law copyright. The act of creating any work that is allowed copyright protection under the law starts the clock on the common law copyright. In other words, copyright is kind of automatic.

      I would think most of the images they have in their database would be covered by copyright.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Copyright Infringement

        "You don't need to have registered your photograph to claim copyright. By law you have up to 12 months to register the copyright on any work you create. Its called common law copyright. The act of creating any work that is allowed copyright protection under the law starts the clock on the common law copyright. In other words, copyright is kind of automatic."

        That's so bad it's "not even wrong".

        Yes, the creator of an original work fixed in a tangible media (including digital images) has an automatic copyright in those works.

        In the US and other signatory countries to the Berne Convention, Copyright is given to the author for their life plus a certain number of years (far too many, IMO). This does not change if the image is not registered.

        A "published" image must be registered (at least in the US) within 3 months of publication to maintain the full suit of remedies including statutory damages and attorney's fee plus court costs. You would still hold the Copyright past the 3 months but it wouldn't be worth a bucket of spit unless you normally get paid a ton of money for each one of your photos/works. You could only sue for the amount you can show that you normally charge for a similar image or what you charged for the one in contention.

        As an aside, in the US Copyright is Federal law so it is only heard in Federal court. It is not heard in State/Municipal courts. This means that attorneys are going to be involved. You could try to argue a case on your own, but a judge may not be pleased and you could easily lose on procedural grounds.

  11. tiggity Silver badge

    public data

    Dubious

    As a non Facebook user I know FB make it hard for non FB Joe Public to get at a lot of stuff without joining Facebook so whatever FB slurpage Clearview have done is not getting (IMO) public data but walled garden data (as there have been occasions a search has, unfortunately, led me to something on FB e.g. a small local business who use FB as their main web presence)

    As a separate but related GDPR abuse, I know FB (& presumably other social media companies) used to (probably still do ) push users to "tag" photos with who people were. So a friend of mine on FB (or other social media) could have essentially said (without my consent) that person X on that photo is "tiggity"... and then its slurped by lots of other companies that repurpose FB data.

    GDPR consent violations all the way down.

    I know no image I have posted on the web identifies me, but am as near to 100% sure as can be that some of my more DILIGAF about privacy mates have done. ... and obviously I am NOT joining FB (etc.) to find out.

  12. spellucci

    File That Complaint!

    Matthias Marx said, "It is not a solution that every person has to file [their] own complaint." I say, let's do it anyway. What if 1 million Europeans filed individual court complaints, or whatever the kind of filing it is that Clearview would have to respond to.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: File That Complaint!

      I like this idea. We could start by having any reader in a GDPR-covered country start submitting requests for erasure of their data. Here's a form letter which could be of use:

      https://www.datarequests.org/blog/sample-letter-gdpr-erasure-request/

      I'm guessing most of these will be ignored, and we also won't generate sufficient traffic to annoy them, but by doing this in a variety of EU countries, we could also get more documented incidents where the letters are ignored, which can be used in complaints to data protection authorities.

  13. skeptical i

    videoconferencing?

    Clearview scrapes photos off the interwebs, sure, but are they also getting video/voiceprint info from videoconference services? One infers that Google is not likely to share data gleaned from its Meet service (would this be a processed Meet by-product?), but what about Teams, Webex, and Zoom?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: videoconferencing?

      I can't see Microsoft being keen on sharing data from Teams either, or Cisco with data from Webex, and Zoom has had enough bad press over the past year that you'd think they'd avoid any intentional entanglement with Clearview.

      Clearview seem to have gone after data sources that are unprotected and easily scraped.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: videoconferencing?

        "Clearview seem to have gone after data sources that are unprotected and easily scraped."

        Zoom is well reported as a leaky sieve. I'd consider their data streams as unprotected.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: videoconferencing?

      Such videos, if not made public, are unavailable unless the conferencing companies sold them. They don't have any need to do that, and it would be tricky. There is little risk of that happening.

  14. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Brexit?

    "Clearview AI told The Reg it "has never had any contracts with any EU customer and is not currently available to EU customers."

    Did El Reg ask for clarification from Clearview over whether they include the UK in their statement about the EU? Do Clearview understand that "The EU" doesn't mean "Europe" and "Europe" is not "The EU"?

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