Vermont is the latest state to bring a tech company to court. Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is suing Clearview AI, and ordered that it stop collecting photos of Vermonters in one of its controversial facial recognition apps, The Verge says.
The app works based off of scraping photos of people’s faces – without their knowledge or consent – from the internet, including from popular social media sites, like Facebook. From there, app users can search the app’s database for a photo of someone they’re looking for.
In the suit, Donovan claims that Clearview AI’s app “violates the Vermont Consumer Protection Act as well as the Data Broker Law,” The Verge says. Donovan also said he is disturbed by Clearview AI’s business practices, which “he said includes collecting and selling children’s facial recognition data.”
Other states have taken similar issue with the tech company and its app. For example, New Jersey’s attorney general banned state police from utilizing the app altogether, and Sen. Markey of Massachusetts has written to Clearview AI’s CEO “to express concerns.” Similarly, people from Illinois and New York took the company to court earlier this year.
Tech companies seem to be unified with users on this front, too. The Verge says that YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have all asked Clearview AI to stop scraping users’ images from their sites. Many of these companies also enforce terms that “explicitly forbid” scraping information.
Sticking to Their Guns
Regardless of how many times it is brought to court, Clearview AI isn’t budging, or admitting to anything. In fact, it keeps claiming that it functions similar to a traditional search engine. “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,” the company said in a statement to CNET.
Clearview also claims that popular search engines “collect far more data, including names, addresses, financial and health information and shopping habits.” That might be true, but stating this makes the old adage even truer: “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Finger pointing at the wrong other companies are doing won’t soften a penalty, either, especially when users’ consent comes into play. Regardless what platform is used for personal needs, users should be aware of what personal information those platforms are collecting, and how it could be used. Maybe it’s not worth using that particular platform after all, even if it may seem like a harmless app.