Clearview AI must destroy any facial recognition data gathered in Australia, according to the Privacy Commission.

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Biometric data gathering without consent is prohibited, according to the regulator, regardless of whether the data is public or not.

Clearview AI continues to gather and scour publically available photographs of persons around the world, despite getting under the skin of just about every regulator possible. Several countries’ regulators have been debating how to use this particular biometric technology. In the meantime, Clearview appears to have mastered the art of avoiding the problem.

Australian regulators have demanded that facial-recognition firm Clearview AI cease scraping the biometric data of Australian citizens and destroy all information and images previously gathered on them. According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), Clearview’s data collection practices violate Australia’s Privacy Act of 1988.

Under Australian law, no entity can collect people’s “sensitive information” without consent. Since Clearview AI gathers images and data without taking “reasonable steps” to notify those involved, the privacy authorities believe it is using unfair means to collect people’s personally identifiable information (PII).

“The covert collection of this kind of sensitive information is unreasonably intrusive and unfair,” said Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk. “Individuals featured in the database may also be at risk of misidentification. These practices fall well short of Australians’ expectations for the protection of their personal information.”

The OAIC initiated the investigation into Clearview in July 2020 when it discovered the Australian Federal Police (AFP) trialed the facial recognition software between October 2019 and March 2020. A separate probe into the AFP is ongoing.

Clearview AI fell back on the defense that it has used against critics from the start. It argues that since the information it scrapes comes from public sources, it cannot be considered private data. It also says that since it is a US-based firm, it lies outside Australia’s authority. As for supplying the tech to police forces in the country, the company says it halted trials in Australia as soon as the OAIC opened its investigation.

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Clearview AI has embroiled itself in numerous privacy controversies since its founding. Charges have ranged from illegal and unethical collection of data to lax security in keeping that information contained. However, the company somehow continues to operate despite numerous attempts to shut it down.

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