The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will collaborate with its UK counterpart to investigate controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI over the company’s use of data scraped from the internet without web users’ knowledge.
Clearview AI claims to have built a database of more than 3 billion photos collected from the internet that can be matched with photos of individuals provided by customers such as law enforcement agencies.
The company will be investigated by the OAIC for potential violations of the Australian Privacy Act and by the UK’s Information Commissioners’ Office under the UK Data Protection Act 2018.
“The investigation highlights the importance of enforcement cooperation in protecting the personal information of Australian and UK citizens in a globalised data environment,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
They said the investigation will also look into Clearview AI’s use of biometrics by individuals. The agencies will consult with other data protection authorities from around the world with similar concerns as part of the joint investigation.
Clearview AI is already being used in Australia by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the AFP and the Queensland, Victoria and South Australia police forces.
But providers of image recognition technology have been under increasing pressure to stop supplying their tools for law enforcement agency use due to concerns over privacy as well as the potential the tools can be misused for racial or other discrimination.
IBM, Amazon and Microsoft all introduced bans or moratoriums on supplying face recognition technology to law enforcement agencies in light of the widespread Black Lives Matter protests in the US and internationally in the wake of the death of George Floyd.