Google, YouTube and Facebook have sent cease and desist letters to Clearview AI, a facial recognition app which scrapes pictures from the internet, including social media platforms, CNet reported. Venmo has also sent a cease and desist letter to the company, according to CBS. YouTube has demanded the company to stop scraping YouTube videos to gather facial data, and delete any such data it has already collected, according to The Verge. We have reached out to Google and Facebook for more information.
YouTube reportedly said that it forbids collecting data that can be used to identify a person, and Clearview AI has claimed to do just that. Facebook reportedly said that it has serious concerns with Clearview’s practices and has requested more information from it, as part of an ongoing review. It has also demanded that Clearview stops scraping photos from its platform since that is violative of its policy.
Earlier this year, Twitter had also sent a cease and desist letter to Clearview, asking it to stop scraping content from the platform, and delete existing photos it had stored, The New York Times had reported. The service was built by collecting images from across the web, taking them from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, news sites, and more, according to another NYT report. Following that, a class-action lawsuit was also filed against Clearview, accusing it of violating Illinois’s privacy laws.
In a blog post on January 27, Clearview AI had said that its search engine is available only for law enforcement agencies and “select security professionals”. Besides, it claimed that its app has inbuilt safeguards that officials use it only for intended purposes — to help identify the perpetrators and victims of crimes. More than 600 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. reportedly use the service.
In an interview with CBS, Clearview AI’s CEO, Hoan Ton-That called his company a “search engine for faces”, and argued that Google can also pull information from different websites, and if resources are public and are available on Google, they can also be present on Clearview’s app. He further argued that it is Clearview AI’s First Amendment right to access public data.