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Clearview accused of attempting to move biometric data beyond reach of US law

US Post Inspection Service using facial recognition
Clearview accused of attempting to move biometric data beyond reach of US law

The latest volley from plaintiffs in a biometric data privacy lawsuit against Clearview AI contends that the company opened subsidiaries in Panama and Singapore in an attempt to provide its service to American law enforcement without having to comply with domestic regulations, according to Law360.

A deposition by Clearview attorney Thomas Mulcaire is quoted from extensively by the plaintiffs in a brief in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction forcing the company to stop processing the biometric data of Illinois residents and delete all biometric data of theirs it holds. The plaintiffs say in the brief that Mulcaire is “an incredible witness, willing to say whatever is convenient,” and that his testimony includes “numerous” inaccuracies which make up the basis for the companies argument, Law Street reports. The brief also alleges that Mulcaire lied under oath about when he became Clearview’s General Counsel.

Mulcaire was licensed as an attorney in March, 2020, according to the plaintiffs, even though he claimed to have been Clearview General Counsel since September 2019 on three occasions. He also said during a May 13 deposition that companies have been set up by Clearview in Panama and Singapore to provide its software in foreign countries, from which it could be provided to U.S. customers, the plaintiffs say.

Once their data is sent abroad, they argue, court oversight will be impossible, making the injunction critical to protecting their data, according to the filing.

The plaintiffs argue Clearview has shown it is not capable of responsibly handling and securing biometric data, and further that the company’s testimony that it cannot determine the residence of people whose images it collects is false, and therefore so is its claim that deleting Illinois residents’ information would only be possible by deleting its whole database and ceasing operation.

The brief also includes several arguments against Clearview’s claims to exemption from Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) and protection by the Constitution.

US Post Office a Clearview client

The U.S. Postal Service’s Covert Operations Program (iCOP) has been using Clearview, tracking the social media posts of U.S. citizens, and sharing information with a range of other law enforcement agencies, Yahoo News writes.

The iCOP program has existed for some time, according to Yahoo, taking its current form in 2018, but its scope is much broader than previously known, and in addition to its use of facial recognition, also includes analysts using assumed identities online.

“If these efforts are directed toward surveilling lawful protesters, the public and Congress need to know why this is happening, under what authority and subject to what kinds of oversight and protections,” said Brennan Center for Justice Liberty & National Security Program Deputy Director Rachel Levinson-Waldman.

Law Professor Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago questioned whether iCOP’s actions are within its authority, and whether it has greater authority than agencies like DHS and the FBI.

Surveillance actions include both protests against racial injustice and election results, and House Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has introduced a bill to defund iCOP. The Inspection Service gave separate presentations to Congressional Democrats and Republicans during May, apparently showing different footage to each to make its case for the necessity of monitoring social media posts about protests.

“This review of publicly available open source information, including news reports and social media, is one piece of a comprehensive security and threat analysis, and the information obtained is the same information anyone can access as a private citizen,” a spokesperson for the inspection service told Yahoo.

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