Clearview AI finally ordered to stop.
OAIC DECISION UPHELD
Clearview AI, the controversial firm that uses facial recognition web trawler software to collect images and their metadata, has been struck another significant blow here in Australia.
Last week, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) upheld findings showing that online images of Australians that were downloaded and offered to law enforcement agencies breached privacy laws.
The sensitive data collected by Clearview included biometric information and templates.
In October 2021, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) found the firm breached Australian privacy laws by collecting sensitive data from individuals without their consent, or failing to ensure the details were complete or accurate.
These findings were made despite Clearview having no office or headquarters in Australia with the OAIC finding the company had the necessary “Australian link” as it was trawling local servers for images.
Part of that ‘Australian link’ was the use by our police departments.
The Australian Federal Police, and Victorian and South Australian police, used a free trial of the Clearview software.. but claim they ultimately did not opt to pay for the full product.
Images of suspects and victims were able to be matched to photos of individuals in the firm’s database.
Following the probe, OAIC ordered Clearview cease collecting data from Australians and destroy all images sourced from the internet and law enforcement agencies.
The AAT decision now dismisses a bid by Clearview to review the decision.
“So long as Clearview continues to acquire information, from servers in Australia using its web crawler … it is carrying on business in Australia,” wrote AAT senior member Damien O’Donovan.
“There is no suggestion that the individuals whose images are collected and have that image converted into a vector consent to Clearview’s collection.“
Clearview AI will now be finally required to comply with the following OAIC directions:
But has the damage already been done after three years of unprecedented data mining?
THE FIGHT AGAINST CLEARVIEW
The fight against Clearview AI has made many headlines over the last few years.
It all began when news emerged in 2020 detailing how the firm’s facial recognition program scraped sources from all over the internet to build a vast directory containing 3 billion images.
To compare, the FBI’s own database, which taps passport and driver’s license photos, is one of the largest, but only has just over 641 million images of US citizens.
Ton-That, who grew up in Australia and moved to the US at 19 years old, was one of the main founders of Clearview, which shrouded itself in secrecy to avoid debate about its boundary-pushing technology.
That claimed he was confident the technology was not being misused, but growing concerns continued to mount given Australia’s push towards a surveillance state over the last two decades.
Clearview AI was also founded by Richard Schwartz and backed financially by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir.
Last year, as part of a settlement with the ACLU, Clearview was “permanently banned, nationwide” from selling access to its faceprint database to businesses in America.
The settlement forced Clearview to end its practice of offering free trial accounts to police officers without their department or employers’ knowledge, and hopefully this AAT decision will also include Australia.
Clearview’s U.S. clients reportedly included some 2,000 U.S. taxpayer-funded agencies, many of which were local law enforcement.
I wonder how many clients were right here in Australia?
Now, with Australia finally having a backbone, it is a good win.
However, the three-year damage of Clearview AI may be hard to be unreversed.
With new emerging technologies like ChatGPT, it may only be a matter of time before something strikes again.
Our laws continue to play catch-up to safeguard our privacy and protection from the digital dystopia.
Yet, we continue to dive head first without looking back.
Do you think Clearview will comply with destroying all data mined from Australians online?
Be sure to leave your thoughts on this saga below!
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