UK ICO seeks to appeal data privacy decision on Clearview AI

The Information Commissioner’s office (ICO) has issued a statement outlining its concerns with the findings of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights), which ruled in favor of allowing face biometrics firm Clearview AI to appeal a 2022 penalty imposed for breaching data privacy laws with its facial recognition system.

In 2022, the ICO fined Clearview AI £7,552,800 (roughly US$9.4 million) and issued an enforcement notice ordering it to stop collecting personal data of UK residents publicly available on the internet to include in its biometric database of billions of faces, and to delete any such data it had collected. The notice claims that the company’s practices infringe on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and associated UK data privacy laws.

In October, however, the Tribunal issued a decision that found Clearview’s data processing falls outside the jurisdiction of UK privacy laws, on the grounds that it supplies its biometric database with its facial recognition services only to foreign law enforcement agencies. It said that, in imposing the fine, the ICO had overstepped its bounds.

Commissioner John Edwards takes issue with this interpretation.

“As the defender of the public’s privacy, I need to challenge this judgment to clarify whether commercial enterprises profiting from processing digital images of UK people, are entitled to claim they are engaged in ‘law enforcement’,” Edwards says.

“It is my job to protect the data rights of the people of the United Kingdom and it is my view that there are too many who are being affected by the sheer scale and intrusiveness of Clearview’s mass scraping of personal information.”

“The Tribunal decision vindicated the common-sense position that Clearview AI has taken all along: Clearview AI is not subject to the ICO’s jurisdiction. We oppose the ICO’s meritless appeal,” Clearview AI General Counsel Jack Mulcaire tells Biometric Update in an emailed statement.

The ICO’s request for appeal is now with the Tribunal.

This post was updated at 3:26pm Eastern on November 20, 2023 to include comment from Clearview’s representation.

Article Topics

biometric database  |  biometric identifiers  |  biometrics  |  Clearview AI  |  data privacy  |  facial recognition  |  Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)  |  regulation  |  UK