American company Clearview collects photos of faces without permission

Clearview is a US company that stores billions of photos of faces in a database. It is about the portrait of people from all over the world, including people from the Netherlands. The American company supplies AI software to companies, universities, law enforcement and individuals. The face database of this company uses facial recognition to find out the identity of a person. It now appears that many Dutch people can also be found in the Clearview database. Reason enough for the Dutch Data Protection Authority to investigate this.

What about personal data?

The Dutch Data Protection Authority is concerned with privacy in the digital world. It is actually a regulator that is committed to protecting people’s personal data and autonomy. Since 2018, the same privacy legislation applies throughout the European Union. This is called the General Data Protection Regulation, also known by its abbreviation AVG. This law makes organizations responsible for processing personal data in the right way. In short, thanks to this privacy legislation, people are too protected.

The Clearview investigation

Despite the fact that Clearview is not a Dutch company and is officially outside the GDPR legislation, the company is still being formally investigated. The faces of Dutch people and other Europeans are simply removed from the internet and that goes against the GDPR. The privacy law may therefore just as well apply here. The Dutch Data Protection Authority has now launched an investigation and calls it a serious issue. It is not yet clear at this time which possible violations they are targeting.

Earlier research

The fact that the American company Clearview is under fire is not new. For example, there are already four other European privacy regulators who have accused the company. In 2022, the regulators of France, Italy and Greece ordered the company to remove the photos of citizens. They were not allowed to collect them again. In addition, a fine of 20 million euros had to be paid per country. With a total fine of 60 million, you would think that Clearview would be careful with the collection of images. That turns out not to be the case.

The company has never been able to confirm to France that the portraits of the French have been removed. The French regulator immediately responded to this with an additional fine of 5.2 million.

Does Clearview use our faces?

Where it used to be easy to get an answer to this, it is now almost impossible. In the past it was still possible to ask for photos of your own face at Clearview. The company was apparently able to see exactly which photos were used on which websites. Your profile picture on LinkedIn and Facebook: they may be in the database. Nowadays you don’t get an answer that quickly from Clearview, so it’s difficult to find out. The database is used by police forces, who use it to identify people when necessary. This has often gone wrong in the US. For example, several innocent people have been arrested. It’s not a watertight system and it’s strange to think that your identity is being taken away from you in a way.

Hopefully our Dutch regulator can do something about this in the investigation of Clearview, to protect our privacy.

Do you want to know more about privacy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *