Clearview Tosses Subpoena To Non-Party Transparency Advocates, Demands Copies Of Communications With Journalists

from the maybe-just-scrape-gmail-you-fucking-hacks dept

Clearview is currently being sued by a small percentage of its database of scraped personal info. It is also being sued by a few state officials over privacy law violations. It is (also) also being side-eyed closely by the federal government, which has not initiated an official investigation, but has expressed its disappointment in legislative ways.

One of dozens of lawsuits Clearview is hopefully being eventually bankrupted by has resulted in a bit of the old intimidation tactics. Clearview has made some inadvertently amusing arguments in court about its alleged right to do whatever the hell it wants to amass secondhand data as well as market access to whoever the hell it wants whenever the hell it wants. We'll see how that all plays out. In the meantime, Clearview is hoping to make others as miserable as it is. And if that means doing terrible things to long-recognized First Amendment protections, so be it.

Transparency advocate Open The Government has been hit with a subpoena from Clearview, which is defending itself against several plaintiffs alleging state law violations in an Illinois-based class action lawsuit. With its livelihood being barely threatened by an ongoing suit, Clearview has decided to threaten Open the Government, which is not involved in the lawsuit in any way.

In January 2020, Open The Government and MuckRock used public records requests to expose a start-up that was scraping Americans’ images and personal information from social media sites, and selling the data to law enforcement agencies. Now, that company, Clearview AI, has subpoenaed OTG and one of its employees to turn over all of the responses we received to Freedom of Information Act requests and all First Amendment protected communications we have had with the media about this matter.

This would be ironic if Clearview were capable of irony. But it isn't. Clearview claims it has a First Amendment right to scrape sites, clear cut data, and serve it up to whoever would like to pay for access. When it comes to the First Amendment rights and protections of others, it simply doesn't care.

As OTG points out, a bunch of what Clearview is demanding with this subpoena could be had simply by accessing its account at public records request clearinghouse Muckrock, where all of its requests targeting Clearview are located.

As for the rest of it -- the communications with the media -- Clearview has no right to access those… for several reasons. First, these are protected under the First Amendment. Second, THESE ARE PROTECTED UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT. Third, OTG and its media connections are not a party to this lawsuit. Fourth, if Clearview wants to know what government agencies know about it, it could search its own internal communications and, if it feels it's still missing something, file FOIA requests just like OTG did.

Clearview can defend itself without brushing aside the First Amendment to demand communications from a non-party to another non-party. If it's feeling the heat because its business model is built on site scraping and a complete disregard for due diligence, so be it. It dug this grave with billions of scraped images. That it refused to consider the implications of its acts under state and federal law is its own fault. Targeting sources of information that have contributed to months of negative coverage isn't going to make Clearview any more likeable or any more capable at defending itself in court.

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Filed Under: foia, journalism, subpoena, transparency
Companies: clearview, open the government

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2021 @ 3:49pm

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Clearview...

    'Scraping and collecting data is a constitutional right! ... when we do it. If someone does that to our data that's a heinous act that must be punished even if that means trampling over constitutional rights!'

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