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ACLU suit seeks the release of Clearview AI face biometrics data by ICE and CBP

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking legal action to compel U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release records of their biometric surveillance technology, writes Law360. According to the lawsuit filed in California, a recent deal between ICE and Clearview AI allowed the ICE and CBP to conduct thousands of facial recognition searches, in what the ACLU called “disturbing” use of this technology.

The lawsuit was filed after the agencies failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed three months ago by the ACLU and co-plaintiffs Mijente Support Committee, Just Futures Law, and the Immigration Defense Project. The FOIA stipulates a 30-day deadline to respond to requests and appeals.

“Even as people use social media services to maintain vital connections with friends and family members throughout the world — a form of communication made even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic — ICE’s use of facial recognition weaponizes these relationships into a conduit for arrest and deportation,” ACLU complained.

One major concern of the ACLU and its partners is the controversial nature of Clearview AI’s face biometrics software that is being used. The group’s suit cited serious civil liberties and human rights concerns that arise from giving the government such an “unprecedented ability” to surveil individuals. Another main concern of the suit is false positives and other discriminatory shortcomings within the software that could falsely target minorities.

The suit further notes, “For example, in the past year alone, several Black men have been wrongfully arrested due to a faulty facial recognition match, while ICE has used the technology to mine state driver license databases and identify immigrants for deportation.”

A similar lawsuit was filed by the Immigrant Defense Project in December 2020, after ICE allegedly failed to release immigrant surveillance data on its “alternatives to detention” initiative which includes the use of facial recognition, ankle bracelets, and home visits.

“Unlike other forms of identity verification, facial recognition technology can enable undetectable, persistent government surveillance on a massive scale,” the ACLU said earlier. “As this technology becomes increasingly widespread, it threatens to grant the government an unprecedented power to track individuals’ movements and associations, posing grave risks to privacy and civil liberties.”

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