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Clearview AI face biometrics patent filing suggests consumer application

Swedish police fined for using its facial recognition tool


A patent application filed by Clearview AI proposing the use of its biometric technology for the identification of individuals in a variety of private and public sectors, including law enforcement, retail, and real estate, has been published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

According to the application, which was filed last August, “A strong need exists for an improved method and system to obtain information about a person.”

The document mentions how often it may be “desirable for an individual to know more about a person that they meet, such as through business, dating, or other relationship,” and how facial recognition could serve this purpose. Biometric matches could be found from images downloaded by a web crawler and stored in a database, which is how Clearview’s law enforcement app works.

Users could perform background checks in real-time, with Clearview suggesting useful scenarios could include “a newly met person” or someone suffering from a memory problem, drug use or homelessness. The app could also return biographic information gleaned from the match like their home address information, financial information or marital status, according to the document.

The filing then proceeds to give examples related to law enforcement using this information to assess the behavior of potential suspects and to grant people access to facilities, venues, and devices.

Despite the mention of public applications, however, Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That told BuzzFeed that the firm does not intend to launch a consumer-grade version of the software.

Swedish Police Authority fined for using Clearview AI tool

The Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection (IMY) has fined the Swedish Police Authority in February 2020 on the grounds that it has unlawfully processed personal data when using Clearview AI to identify individuals.

An ensuing investigation then proved that the application Clearview AI had been used on a number of occasions during the period between autumn of 2019 and 3 March, 2020.

Specifically, Clearview AI was reportedly trialed by a total of six employees, of which five used the application in operational activities.

These included the identification of people suspected of sexual crimes against children, as well as reconnaissance activities connected to the identification of unknown persons in the investigation of serious organized crime.

According to IMY, the Police Authority did not fulfill its obligations as a data controller in the use of the Clearview AI software in this period, as well as failing to demonstrate that the processing of biometric data was compliant with the Criminal Data Act.

For breaking the law, the Police Authority has been fined SEK 2,500,000 (roughly US$300,000) and was ordered to train and educate its employees further in order to avoid any future breach of data protection rules and regulations when processing personal data.

Moreover, the Police Authority also had to inform the interested individuals their privacy had been breached (when allowed by confidentiality rules), and to prompt Clearview AI to erase its data by 15 September 2021.

The incident is not the first time Clearview AI has come under scrutiny in Europe for the improper use of data through its facial recognition algorithms, and the company is currently fighting a multidistrict data privacy suit in the U.S.

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