Clearview AI's photo database declared illegal in the EU and Canada.

Yet, the real scandal about Clearview still stands: Individuals must opt out of data abuse - even though they never gave consent.

2021-02-10 / First published: 2020-03-10
When the Clearview scandal hit the public, everyone expected that Clearview would have to answer to government officials for this data abuse. As it turns out, the opposite is the case: Governments are too eager to use the facial recognition software themselves. They seem to have no interest to regulate Clearview. Now, about one year after the scandal hit the public, a German and a Canadian court decided in two separate cases that Clearview's creation of biometric profiles is illegal and that Clearview must delete profiles upon request. This is a first step, but not enough to protect people's right to privacy.

How Clearview AI abuses our data

How to opt out of Clearview AI

First things first: As a citizen of Europe, Canada or California, privacy laws such as the GDPR or the CCPA enable you to demand from Clearview AI to delete your data.

We call on every citizen of Europe, Canada and California to force Clearview to delete their data. Here's how to opt out.

Court ruling against Clearview

A German court has now decided officially that Clearview is not allowed to create biometric profiles of European citizens, and must therefore comply with deletion requests. A Canadian court issued a very similar ruling last week.

The Canadian ruling goes a step further than the German one as it told Clearview AI

"to cease offering its facial recognition services in Canada, cease the scraping of Canadians’ faces, and to delete images already collected."

While this is a first step, it is not enough to protect people's right to privacy.

Clearview's business practice contradicts the human right to privacy. Clearview collects pictures online, combining these pictures with information about people (Facebook profile etc.) which helps to identify the real person behind the pictures. The people concerned never gave consent that their information online may be used in such a way. They might not even have published this information themselves, just think about doxxing.

To protect citizen's rights to privacy, the business practice of Clearview AI must be declared illegal as such. For now, all we can do as individuals is to make Clearview delete our data.

We encourage everyone to ask Clearview for a copy of their data and demand the company to completely erase their profile from the Clearview database!

How Clearview profiles you

Clearview collects pictures posted online as well as other information connected to these pictures (e.g. the Facebook, Twitter or TikTok profile, the name and email address posted there), combines them in a huge database and lets others - law enforcement agencies, companies, but also some elites - search for your data.

While Clearview claims that it only collects publicly available pictures, the scandal is that no one has opted in to this usage of their pictures when uploading them. But that's not all: Pictures are also scraped if someone else uploaded your picture without asking for your consent.

The real scandal here is that governments let Clearview continue to operate. That individuals must refuse "their consent" despite the fact that no one ever gave consent to this abuse. Even worse: Only people in the European Union, the UK, Switzerland, Canada and California get a chance to "refuse consent" and opt out of Clearview tracking because of privacy protection laws.

Everybody else doesn't even get the chance to opt out.

Why you should opt out of Clearview

In case you are not yet convinced to make the effort of opting out, read Anna Merlan's post on what data Clearview has on her and where it got the pictures from.

It's incredibly scary that anyone can take any picture of you, upload it to the web, and some system scrapes it and sells your data to others: governments, marketing agencies, or whoever is interested on spying on other people.

The software also combines the pictures with other information, like names, social security numbers, holiday information, CVs. It can be any information that was posted along with the pictures.

This software denies every citizen to control their own pictures, their own identity.

Clearview has become one of the worst surveillance apps

Jeramie D. Scott, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, comments on Vice: "The face search results show exactly why we need a ban on biometric surveillance. In a democratic society, we should not accept our images being secretly collected and retained to create a mass surveillance database to be used, disclosed, and analyzed at the whim of an unaccountable company. The threat to our Constitutional rights and democracy is too great. Our participation in society should not come with the price tag of our privacy."

How much is too much?

Clearview states on their website that the app is "available only for law enforcement agencies and select security professionals to use as an investigative tool."

However, this might not be entirely true. In search for investors, Clearview gave access to potential investors as a perk. For instance, the actor Ashton Kutcher, described an app just like Clearview on YouTube:

"I have an app in my phone in my pocket right now. It’s like a beta app. It’s a facial recognition app. I can hold it up to anybody’s face here and, like, find exactly who you are, what internet accounts you’re on, what they look like. It’s terrifying."

So can anyone use the Clearview app? No, it is not publicly available. However, it is obviously not just law enforcement agencies that have access to the app. To date, Clearview has not published a list of customers that are using the Clearview app right now. At this point, no one can know who might have access to this tool.

Besides, with the incredible amount of abuse you can do with this kind of information, it is only a matter of time until criminals will find a way to use, abuse, or rebuild the app.

Better start deleting all your online pictures now. Or go undercover, like these artists.

Tutanota's free email service helps you to protect your private data.