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Clearview AI ponders broader facial recognition service, free speech defense rejected

Clearview AI ponders broader facial recognition service, free speech defense rejected
 

A federal court ruling on numerous dismissal motion presents a partial setback for Clearview AI in its defense against alleged violations of Illinois biometric data privacy law, as the company appears to be raising funds and considering expanding its business.

The company told investors in December that it could collect 100 billion face photos within a year, enough to identity nearly everyone in the world with face biometrics, according to a Washington Post report.

The pitch deck viewed by the Post suggested a possible expansion of Clearview AI’s business into gig economy or physical access control applications.

Clearview is seeking a $50 million Series C round from investors to upgrade its data collection, develop new products, expand its international sales team and lobby for favorable regulations, according to the report.

The presentation also suggests that Clearview is researching other biometric modalities, including gait recognition and contactless fingerprint capture.

CEO Hoan Ton-That told the Post that Clearview has collected its images “in a lawful manner,” and that the company is undecided on offering commercial services. If the company were to move in that direction, Ton-That says, it would inform the federal court hearing the suit against it under Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

An official with Meta said that Clearview has not provided information on whether data from Facebook, which bars “scraping” photos in its terms and conditions, is still held in company databases.

Clearview is also facing lawsuits in California, New York, Vermont and Virginia, as well as in other countries.

The company’s online principles pledge states that its facial recognition technology will only be sold to government agencies, and Ton-That says the principles will be updated if the use of the technology changes.

Clearview expects its revenues from the federal government to reach $6 million this year, according to the presentation, and has signed deals in Panama and Costa Rica.

First Amendment defense rejected in mixed ruling

A federal court judge in Illinois has applied the ‘intermediate scrutiny standard’ to Clearview’s argument of protection from BIPA on free speech grounds, finding the lawsuit can proceed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation shares the decision, and argues that the same conclusion can be arrived at through the same test and different reasoning, based on the protection of “necessary predicates to expression, including the collection and creation of information.”

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman reasoned that the government has an important interest in protecting biometric data, and that the speech restraint is not “greater than necessary.” Coleman also ruled that arguments that the lawsuit should be dismissed for violating the Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause should be heard following discovery, according to the Cook County Record.

The inclusion of Ton-That and Richard Schwartz, Clearview’s president and co-founder, as defendants was also upheld, but allegations that Clearview is just an “alter ego” for the executives was dismissed.

Coleman also dismissed an unjust enrichment claim under New York common law, as the State’s Civil Rights Act pre-empts it, and a claim under California’s Unfair Competition Law, as that law does not consider personal information as property. Several other related claims are allowed to proceed.

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