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Settlement: Clearview AI to Limit Sales of Biometric Database

After two years of legal proceedings, Clearview AI agreed this week to limit the sale of its facial recognition software to government agencies as part of a settlement reached with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Facial recognition applied to a crowd of people
On Monday, Clearview AI settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that would limit the sale of its facial recognition database to private companies and entities nationwide. The company would not, however, be restricted from selling to government agencies.

The ACLU first filed the lawsuit in an Illinois State Court in May 2020, claiming that the sale of Clearview’s database to private individuals or companies violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits the use of bodily identifiers without consent.

Based on the settlement agreement, Clearview will be prohibited from selling its products and services to any Illinois-based entity, private or public, for five years. After that, the company can resume doing business with local or state law enforcement agencies in the state, the ACLU noted in a statement about the settlement.

“Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unrestricted source of profits,” Nathan Freed Wessler, a deputy director with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois’ lead in enacting strong biometric privacy laws.”

Another result of the settlement is protecting undocumented individuals in Illinois.

“This is a huge win for the most vulnerable people in Illinois,” Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, a plaintiff in the case and the head of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, told the New York Times. “For a lot of Latinas, many who are undocumented and have low levels of IT or social media literacy, not understanding how technology can be used against you is a huge challenge.”

However, despite these stipulations, it doesn’t mean Clearview is completely banned from doing business with private companies. The New York Times reports that the company will still be able to sell its facial recognition algorithm, though it won’t include its database of 20 billion images.

As for what comes next, the settlement is subject to approval by a state judge.