Clearview AI found for illegally archiving images of British faces

Clearview AI, a New York-based facial recognition company, has been fined £ 7.5 million ($ 9.4 million) by a UK privacy regulator.

In recent years, the company has been collecting images from the web and social media of people in Britain and elsewhere to create a global online database that can be used by law enforcement for facial recognition.

The Information Commission Office said Monday that the company has violated UK data protection laws.

The ICO ordered Clearview to delete the data it has on UK residents and banned it from collecting any more. Clearview did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Clearview writes on its website that it has collected more than 20 billion facial images of people around the world. Collects publicly posted images from social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as news media, mugshot websites, and other open sources. It does this without informing people or asking for their consent.

Clearview’s platform allows law enforcement to upload a photo of an individual and try to match it with photos stored in the Clearview database.

John Edwards, the UK information commissioner, said in a statement: “The company not only allows for the identification of those people, but it effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service. This is unacceptable.”

He added that people expect their personal information to be respected no matter where in the world their data is used.

Clearview has also been fined by regulators in France, Italy and Australia.

The ICO’s executive action comes after a joint investigation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Clearview does not publish the names of its customers, but BuzzFeed News reports it to have partnered with 2,200 law enforcement agencies, companies and individuals around the world. Macy’s, Walmart, Bank of America, and Target have reportedly used the service. CNBC could not independently verify the reports.

In May 2020, Clearview said would stop working with non-legal entities and private companies between regulatory scrutiny and potential lawsuits.