Clearview AI has been fined £7.5 million by the UK for unlawfully scraping citizens' data.


The UK's privacy watchdog has imposed a fine of £7.5 million on Clearview AI for its unauthorized scraping of citizens' online data, without obtaining explicit consent. The facial recognition provider, known for amassing billions of images from various websites and social media platforms, has faced scrutiny and opposition from regulators and advocacy groups worldwide.

In November 2021, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) initially proposed a potential fine of slightly over £17 million for Clearview AI. Today's announcement indicates that the company received a relatively lighter penalty.

John Edwards, the UK Information Commissioner, expressed his concerns, stating that Clearview AI had amassed a database with over 20 billion images, enabling identification and monitoring of individuals for commercial purposes, which he deemed unacceptable. The ICO took action by imposing a fine and issuing an enforcement notice, compelling Clearview AI to delete all facial recognition data.

The investigation into Clearview AI was conducted jointly by the UK's ICO and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), commencing in July 2020. Angelene Falk, the Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner, highlighted the value of collaboration between data protection regulators. The issues raised by Clearview AI's practices posed unique concerns in multiple jurisdictions, and the partnership between OAIC and ICO helped shape a global regulatory environment.

Falk emphasized that uploading an image to a social media site does not imply clear consent for an unknown third party to collect and use the image for commercial purposes. The OAIC ordered Clearview AI to destroy the biometric data it collected from Australians.

Edwards stressed the importance of international cooperation to safeguard privacy rights, mentioning the need to collaborate with regulators worldwide, including European regulators with whom he planned to meet in Brussels. He emphasized the necessity of such collaboration to address global privacy infringements effectively in 2022.