December 8, 2023

States-only facial recognition: Clearview AI avoids British fines

Clearview AI has avoided a multi-million dollar fine on appeal for illegally collecting photos of people in the UK. In the BBC brief, Clearview succeeded in arguing that facial recognition services based on AI data were only provided to government agencies. However, as foreign governments are not subject to British data protection laws, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) does not have the right to punish Clearview AI. The supervisory authority therefore intends to study the judgment and decide on possible next steps. He points out that he is still liable to foreign companies and can impose fines.


In May 2022, the ICO fined Clearview AI £7.5 million (about 8.9 million euros). At the time, the US company was accused of breaching British data protection laws. This is because he collected images of people from the UK and other countries on the internet and social media and used them to create a global online database. This database can be used for face recognition. The enforcement notice said Clearview AI must stop collecting and using personal data of British citizens that is publicly available on the internet and must delete any data on British citizens it has already collected.

Based on data, Clearview AI provides its customers with a people search engine. For photos of the people you’re looking for, hits will be displayed in over 30 billion photos from around the web. The BBC writes. As of 2020, the company is only offering it to government customers such as the police in the United States. According to the practice, other clients can be found in countries such as Panama, Brazil, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. This means the service will no longer fall under British data protection laws, it has now been said, as there is a special exemption for foreign governments. Apart from that, it was said that it is the responsibility of the ICO to scrape large amounts of data from the internet.

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