Clearview Calls It Quits In Canada While Under Investigation By The Privacy Commissioner

from the come-back-and-take-your-beating,-you-cowards dept

Clearview AI — the facial recognition service that gives all kinds of entities access to billions of face images scraped from the web — is suddenly scaling back on its aggressive expansion plans. Once the plaything of billionaires, the unproven AI has been sold to retailers, fitness centers, police departments, and a handful of human rights violators.

Soon after its existence was exposed by the New York Times, Clearview AI proceeded to announce its plans to expand worldwide — something it hoped to achieve while being sued multiple times in its home country. Canada was in its sights, but not so much any more.

In February, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced its office would be investigating Clearview AI and its still-not-independently-tested algorithm. This was triggered by numerous reports from journalists exposing how Clearview obtained its massive database of photos and how it was being used by government agencies and private entities.

The Privacy Commissioner was not impressed with Clearview’s apparent disregard for privacy, saying it was specifically looking into reports that Clearview was collecting and using personal info without consent.

The investigation is still ongoing. But it appears Clearview is hoping to dodge the worst of it by removing itself from the Canadian market:

Clearview AI has advised Canadian privacy protection authorities that, in response to their joint investigation, it will cease offering its facial recognition services in Canada.

This step includes the indefinite suspension of Clearview AI’s contract with the RCMP, which was its last remaining client in Canada.

Clearview is making like a cop under investigation and retiring before it’s concluded. But that’s not going to save Clearview from findings that are pretty much guaranteed to be damning.

The investigation of Clearview by privacy protection authorities for Canada, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec remains open. The authorities still plan to issue findings in this matter given the importance of the issue for the privacy rights of Canadians.

And the investigation Clearview can’t dodge by saying “you can’t fire me, I quit” will continue, looking into the company’s slurping of Canadians’ data as well as any attempts it makes to divest itself of contested Canadian data as it promises to pull out.

Good riddance, I say. And Canada says. Not directly, as of yet, but when the investigation concludes, I doubt the Privacy Commissioner will be offering Clearview a “we had you all wrong, bro.” Clearview is the pox upon the humanity that is the facial recognition arms race. Weaponizing people’s online postings against them using unproven AI is just pure evil.

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Companies: clearview, clearview ai

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Comments on “Clearview Calls It Quits In Canada While Under Investigation By The Privacy Commissioner”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Considering how the BC and Quebec laws are worded, in order for Clearview AI to continue operation in these provinces, they would have had to notify each individual in their database on a yearly basis of what data they held, and asked for (and received) consent to continue to hold that data.

That’s just not workable, considering the use cases they were selling to. When any potential criminal could just ask to be removed from the database, the utility of the tool would dry up pretty quickly.

That said, by pulling out early, they now don’t have to remove any of that data from their databases. Which means any Canadians can still be surveilled by non-Canadian entities via Clearview AI with impunity, and that data can even be sold on to Canadian entities without issue, since those entities themselves won’t be handling PII, just context and metadata.

Unfortunately this djinni’s out of the bottle now. Even if Clearview AI is shut down, they’ll just sell their assets to someone else who doesn’t have as much government oversight. The database now exists, and the tech to mine it now exists. If doing so becomes a criminal activity, only criminals and authoritarian governments will use it… but use it they will.

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