UK fines Clearview AI, orders it to delete all data

(Image credit: Pixabay)

The UK's Information Commissioner’s Office has announced it will fine Clearview AI and order the company to delete information on UK residents from its services. 

The fine is small in absolute terms at around £7.5 million, down from the initial suggestion of £17.5 million, but it carries a message and the other enforcement action will have an impact on Clearview's services. 

"[Clearview] not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behaviour and offers it as a commercial service," said the ICO's John Edwards. "That is unacceptable. That is why we have acted to protect people in the UK by both fining the company and issuing an enforcement notice." 

Clearview AI fine

The ICO found that Clearview breached UK data protection laws by failing to have a lawful reason for collecting the data, failing to use that data in a "fair and transparent" way, and failing to comply with GDPR and the UK's GDPR, among other infringements. 

The company has amassed a database with over 20 billion images, largely by scraping those available on the open web. From there, its AI matches those images with pictures of real people. 

Unfortunately for Clearview, none of these images were collected with consent from those that appear in them, meaning that they break many data protection laws around the world. 

Similar sanctions have been placed on Clearview by France, Canada, Italy, and Australia. 

Not cool 

People generally do not like to be surveilled but Clearview seems to have taken this to the next level, generating significant pushback from authorities all over the world.

In a pitch deck for investors, Clearview said it will have 100 billion images in its database by February 2023, up from 10 billion in early 2020, which is a staggering amount. While this might be inflated for the audience, even a fraction of that is a huge amount of data on people. 

But governments are getting wiser and actions like the ICO's make it harder for Clearview to easily operate in major territories around the world. 

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.