Two immigrant-rights groups in California are suing Clearview AI, claiming the face-recognition company violates privacy laws by building the largest database of human faces in the nation and providing law enforcement with the database even in cities that have banned facial recognition.
“Clearview has provided thousands of governments, government agencies and private entities access to its database, which they can use to identify people with dissident views, monitor their associations and track their speech,” claims the lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Alameda County superior court.
Clearview, a tech startup founded in 2017, has amassed 3 billion photos of people pulled from social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Venmo — usually without the people’s knowledge or consent. The company has fielded requests from more than 2,200 law-enforcement agencies and private companies, and its database is larger than the FBI’s, the lawsuit claims.
Most recently, the company has seen a spike in use as law enforcement tracks down participants in January 6’s violent protest at the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times reported.
But this surveillance also erodes privacy protections, “making it impossible to walk down the street without fear your likeness can be captured, stored indefinitely by the company, and used against you any time in the future,” said Sejal Zota, a lead attorney in the case.
The plaintiffs are the immigrant rights groups Mijente and Norcal Resist, as well as four activists living in California. The four have been outwardly supportive of Black Lives Matter and critical of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — stances that open them up to retaliation by police agencies that use Clearview, the lawsuit contends.