Clearview AI to end relationships with private companies

The controversial company looks to avoid litigation and additional scrutiny

Clearview AI claims it will end relationships with non-law enforcement entities and private companies after facing regulatory scrutiny and potential class-action lawsuits.

In legal documents filed in an Illinois federal court earlier this week, seen by BuzzFeed News, Clearview AI claims to be taking voluntary actions that would include “[avoiding] transacting with non-governmental customers anywhere.”

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This shift comes after Clearview AI has faced mounting legal threats from lawmakers, news organizations and privacy activist groups. 

Last month, the company faced a concerning security lapse that exposed a server containing the source code to the company’s entire facial-recognition database. Prior to that, a BuzzFeed News investigation revealed the AI company had provided its facial recognition tool to upward of 2,200 police departments, government agencies and retail companies in 27 countries.

“Clearview is cancelling the accounts of every customer who was not either associated with law enforcement or some other federal, state, or local government department, office, or agency,” the company stated in a recent filing.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Lee Wolosky, an attorney for Clearview AI, said: “Clearview AI continues to pursue its core mission: to assist law enforcement agencies around the nation in identifying perpetrators and victims of crime, including horrific crimes such as trafficking and child abuse. It is committed to abiding by all laws applicable to it.”

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In past media appearances, Clearview AI has characterized itself as a government contractor. In a recent interview with Fox Business, Clearview AI CEO Hoan Ton-That said the company was “strictly for law enforcement.”

BuzzFeed News’ investigation proved that was not the case, revealing the company had provided its facial recognition services to various companies, including Macy’s, Walmart, Bank of America and Target.

Although Clearview has promised to end its relationships with private companies, it’s still working toward expanding into new markets. Just last week, NBC News reported Clearview AI was in talks with state and federal police about using its facial recognition tech to assist in coronavirus digital contact tracing.

When questioned about the matter, CEO Ton-That declined to comment on what specific agencies the company has spoken with about Clearview AI’s contract tracing capabilities.

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