Clearview AI facial recognition app maker sued by Vermont

AI is facing another lawsuit over its controversial recognition app. Vermont's attorney general filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday that alleges its collection of billions of images off the internet to build a facial recognition database for its app violates state privacy laws.

Clearview identifies people by comparing photos to a database of images scraped from social media and other sites. It came under fire after a New York Times investigation in January. Since then, Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has called Clearview a “chilling” privacy risk. In addition, Google, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter have sent cease-and-desist letters to Clearview. The company also faces multiple lawsuits.

Vermont's complaint (PDF) alleges Clearview AI violates the state's Consumer Protection Act by collecting facial recognition data of Vermont residents, including children, without their consent. It also alleges that the “screen scraping” Clearview AI uses to collect the data violates the state's new Data Broker Law, which targets companies that collect and sell data on consumers.

“I am disturbed by this practice, particularly the practice of collecting and selling children's facial recognition data,” Attorney General T.J. Donovan said in a statement. “This practice is unscrupulous, unethical and contrary to public policy.”

The state also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking that Clearview be forced to stop collecting and storing images and data of Vermont residents.

Clearview AI denied violating any laws and said in a statement it doesn't index images marked private.

“Clearview AI operates in a manner similar to search engines like Google and Bing. Clearview AI, however, collects far less data than Google and Bing, because Clearview AI only collects public images and their web address. That's all,” Clearview said in a statement. “Google, Bing and Facebook collect far more data, including names, addresses, financial and health information and shopping habits.”

Vermont's lawsuit comes after an Illinois resident filed a lawsuit accusing Clearview AI of willful, reckless or negligent violations of biometrics laws in Illinois. The lawsuit challenges the company's collection, storage and use of biometric information without written consent, which is illegal, according to the lawsuit.

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