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Narrow UK biometric data privacy win for Clearview

Narrow UK biometric data privacy win for Clearview

A United Kingdom tribunal has agreed with online face photo-scraper Clearview AI that a regulator was off the leash in penalizing it for collecting citizens’ biometric identifiers without consent.

The Information Commissioner Office fined U.S.-based Clearview £7.5 million (US$9.4 million) in May 2022 for illegally collecting facial images for the company’s multi-billion-photo database. Clearview sells subscriptions for facial recognition services.

But the three-member tribunal hearing the company’s appeal of that fine agreed with executives who said the ICO was not authorized by the nation’s General Data Protection Regulation to make such a determination. It was acting beyond its jurisdiction.

The forum did not consider if Clearview’s facial recognition service itself was used illegally in the UK. Penalties could be assessed in other legal and regulatory venues.

For a jurisdiction issue, the dispute was sprawling. According to tribunal documents, the case’s “core documents” numbered 1,700 pages.

Clearview has changed its operations markedly in the last few years in response to criticism. It has pledged to take subscriptions only from government agencies involved in criminal law enforcement and national security.

Among the nations that have penalized Clearview for scraping images of their citizens’ faces from social media and government databases are France, Greece and Italy.

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