Last year, the US company, Clearview AI, had downloaded more than 3 billion face photos from the web. The company did not get the images from particular databases but from public sources like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
The ClearView AI database is funded by private individuals and friends of the startup founder to test and use for entirely personal purposes. The company caused a fuss with Canada in February and was attacked by several rights groups and government agencies.
Several privacy-focused companies have filed a complaint against Clearview's illegal practices in Austria, the UK, France, Greece, and Italy.
Ioannis Kouvakas, PI's Legal Officer, said European data protection laws are very clear regarding how companies can use people's data. Sharing unique facial features with the police or other companies goes way beyond the boundaries of EU privacy laws.
ClearView AI's practices are currently under investigation by the UK, German, and Italian data protection authorities. The company has also signed cooperation agreements with European law enforcement agencies. In Greece, the police denied cooperating with the company.
The President of the Hermes Center, Fabio Pietrosanti, explains that facial recognition technologies threaten our physical and online lives. By secretly collecting our biometric data, these systems allow us to be constantly monitored.
Alan Dahi, a Data Protection lawyer, added that just because something is available online does not automatically mean it's free. ClearView's AI practices are highly controversial from both a moral and legal perspective.
Data protection authorities need to be more active in preventing companies like ClearView from obtaining the personal data of EU citizens.
As data protection authorities have three months to respond to the requests, organizations seek a unified response.