Oosto backs call for scraped biometrics deletion; Clearview fires back
An industry dust-up has broken out over the appropriate composition of biometric reference databases for law enforcement applications, with Oosto endorsing a regulator’s call for facial images scraped from the internet to be deleted in reference to Clearview AI.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) declared Clearview in violation of the country’s privacy regulations and ordered the company to delete the biometric data of Australians from its database, at the conclusion of a joint investigation with the UK’s ICO.
“Oosto endorses the Australian Government’s decision,” states Oosto CEO Avi Golan. “Scraping images of people from the web without their consent is, in our view, a serious violation of the right to privacy. As a vendor of AI based facial recognition products for private companies and government agencies it is important for me to emphasize — facial recognition apps should be provided with an empty database.”
Daniel Castro of The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) blasted the OAIC’s decisions on Clearview and 7-Eleven. He states that in the case of the Clearview decision, the four alleged harms to consumers are not increased by anything Clearview has done.
The company will not be able to comply with the OAIC’s order, for which it has no jurisdiction anyway, according to Castro.
“Taken together, these two rulings show the OAIC has taken an extreme position on facial recognition that has serious implications for any organization using biometrics,” writes Castro. “It also sends a message to the rest of the world that Australia is not welcoming of emerging technologies or companies using them. The OAIC should reconsider these orders, and if it refuses, Australian legislators should consider revising the Privacy Act to more narrowly tailor its restrictions on biometrics to avoid limiting useful deployment of this technology in the future.”
Britain’s ICO, meanwhile, is likely to eventually follow the OAIC by shutting down any Clearview operations in the UK, a compliance expert tells Infosecurity Magazine.
Shortly prior to its rebrand from AnyVision, Oosto responded with an open letter to the proposed revision to the UK Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, including recommendations on biometric database composition.
Oosto also recently published a white paper on ethical facial recognition in law enforcement and commercial settings.
Clearview differentiates real-time and forensic facial recognition
“Although Clearview AI does not offer any camera products for live facial recognition, we believe that watchlists built for real-time facial recognition should be limited to persons of interests, missing persons, those with outstanding warrants for serious offenses, or for a specific security related purpose known in advance,” Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That told Biometric Update in an emailed response to the Oosto statement.
“However, for the purposes of after-the-fact investigations which do not involve real-time live facial recognition, larger datasets are essential to effective law enforcement use of facial recognition. They increase the likelihood that law enforcement can make a positive identification, thereby reducing the likelihood of a false positive match. Every photo in the dataset is a potential clue that could save a life, provide justice to an innocent victim, prevent a wrongful identification, or exonerate an innocent person.”
Ton-That also notes in the email that he grew up in Australia.
“I am a dual citizen of Australia and the United States, the two countries about which I care most deeply,” he explains. “My company and I have acted in the best interests of these two nations and their people by assisting law enforcement in solving heinous crimes against children, seniors and other victims of unscrupulous acts. We only collect public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law. I respect the time and effort that the Australian officials spent evaluating aspects of the technology I built. But I am disheartened by the misinterpretation of its value to society. I look forward to engaging in conversation with leaders and lawmakers to fully discuss the privacy issues, so the true value of Clearview AI’s technology, which has proven so essential to law enforcement, can continue to make communities safe.”
Mark Love of BAL Lawyers writes representing the company that; “Clearview AI has gone to considerable lengths to co-operate with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. In doing so, Clearview AI has volunteered considerable information, yet it is apparent to us and to Clearview AI that the Commissioner has not correctly understood how Clearview AI conducts its business. Clearview AI operates legitimately according to the laws of its places of business.
“Clearview AI intends to seek review of the Commissioner’s decision by the (Australian) Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Not only has the Commissioner’s decision missed the mark on the manner of Clearview AI’s manner of operation, the Commissioner lacks jurisdiction,” Love adds.
“To be clear, Clearview AI has not violated any law nor has it interfered with the privacy of Australians. Clearview AI does not do business in Australia, does not have any Australian users.”
The company recently took a major step towards transparency with an entry into the NIST FRVT, and committed to selling only to law enforcement agencies.