Aus, UK privacy commissioners investigating facial recognition company

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday July 10, 2020


The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has joined forces with its UK counterpart to investigate facial recognition company Clearview AI.

The OAIC on Thursday announced it had launched a joint investigation with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office into the company’s “personal information handling practices”, with a focus on its use of “scraped” data and biometrics.

It follows a similar inquiry into the company, conducted by the privacy protection authorities for Canada, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.

Clearview’s facial recognition app allows users to upload an image of a person and uses the internet to find other photos of that person. It then links to where the photos appeared.

The technology has been used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the US — as well as several Australian police agencies — sparking human rights concerns from academics and privacy experts.

The OAIC noted that there have been reports that the system includes a database of more than 3 billion images that Clearview claims to have taken or “scraped” from various social media platforms and other websites.

“The OAIC and ICO will engage with other data protection authorities who have raised similar concerns, where relevant and appropriate,” it said.

“The investigation highlights the importance of enforcement cooperation in protecting the personal information of Australian and UK citizens in a globalised data environment.”

The investigation would be conducted under the Global Privacy Assembly’s Global Cross Border Enforcement Cooperation Arrangement and the MOU between the OAIC and the ICO.

It follows a previous OAIC inquiry into whether Clearview’s facial recognition software was being used in Australia, or if its database contains information on Australians.

Read more: Privacy commissioner launches inquiry into police use of facial recognition software

This week the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced that Clearview had stopped selling its facial recognition services in Canada in response to the nation’s ongoing investigation.

“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,” the authority said.

“An ongoing issue under investigation by the authorities is the deletion of the personal information of Canadians that Clearview has already collected as well as the cessation of Clearview’s collection of Canadians’ personal information. The privacy authorities appreciate Clearview AI’s cooperation to date on the ongoing investigation, and look to the company’s continued cooperation as it is brought to conclusion.”

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