An investigation into the notorious Clearview AI facial recognition technology business has been opened by the British and Australian data protection authorities. The company's program scraps photos of faces from publicly accessible platforms such as Facebook and Google to create a database; instead users, such as law enforcement agencies, can use it to identify individual pictures.
The database is estimated to contain as many as three billion pictures, and has been licensed to more than 600 law enforcement agencies around the world, as well as to a number of private companies, colleges, and banks. It's believed the National Crime Agency in the UK was using it. Critics, however, also warned of the potential for misuse. After a New York Times report, strong questions about privacy have been raised regarding the use of images of individuals and other data without their permission.
And now, a joint investigation into the business has been launched by the Australian Information Commissioner's Office (OAIC) and the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), focusing on the use of scraped data and biometry.
There has been growing controversy over the last year about the use of facial recognition technology by police, with concerns about privacy and racial profiling. In the past few months, IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft have all vowed to either stop their technology or restrict its use.