ACLU joins over 50 groups in calling for Homeland Security to halt use of Clearview AI

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has joined over 50 other rights and advocacy groups in calling for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to halt the use of Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition system.

In a letter (PDF) addressed to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the signatories wrote: “The undersigned organizations have serious concerns about the federal government’s use of facial recognition technology provided by private company Clearview AI. We request that the Department immediately stop using Clearview AI at its agencies on a contractual, trial, or any other basis.”

Clearview AI’s system has raised alarm among privacy advocates for its use of more than three billion biometric identifiers scraped without permission from websites including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

An investigation by Huffington Post also found Clearview AI has extensive links to the far-right. Clearview AI lawyer Tor Ekeland, also known as The Troll’s Lawyer for taking on some rather unsavoury clients, argued last year: “Common law has never recognised a right to privacy for your face.”

Despite the concerns, thousands of state and federal law enforcement agencies have used Clearview AI’s system. In the wake of the Capitol Hill riot, Clearview AI itself says usage increased by 26 percent.

With warrants and other due processes, such tools can be a powerful asset in the fight against serious crime. However, worryingly, many of the leaders of the agencies using Clearview AI were unaware employees were using the tool.

Last year, the UK and Australia launched a joint probe into Clearview AI’s practices.

“The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have opened a joint investigation into the personal information handling practices of Clearview Inc., focusing on the company’s use of ‘scraped’ data and biometrics of individuals,” the ICO wrote in a statement.

A similar probe was also launched by the EU’s privacy watchdog. The European Data Protection Board ruled that any use of the service by law enforcement in Europe would “likely not be consistent with the EU data protection regime” and that it “has doubts as to whether any Union or Member State law provides a legal basis for using a service such as the one offered by Clearview AI.”

The following organisations are signatories of the letter to the DHS:

  • Mijente
  • Just Futures Law
  • The Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law Access Now
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • ACLU of Minnesota
  • ACLU of Northern California
  • ACLU of North Carolina
  • Adelante Alabama Worker Center
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
  • CASA
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Center for Popular Democracy
  • Centro de Trabajadores Unidos
  • Cleveland Jobs with Justice
  • Colectiva Legal del Pueblo
  • Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Community Justice Exchange Community Justice Project, Inc. Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible Defending Rights & Dissent Demand Progress Education Fund Detention Watch Network
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Electronic Privacy Information Center Fight for the Future
  • Freedom for Immigrants
  • Free Press
  • Government Information Watch
  • Immigrant Defense Project
  • Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
  • La Resistencia
  • Laredo Immigrant Alliance
  • LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  • Legal Aid at Work
  • Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention
  • MA Jobs with Justice
  • MediaJustice
  • Meyer Law Office, P.C.
  • Muslim Advocates
  • Muslim Justice League
  • National Immigrant Justice Center
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
  • National Network of Arab American Communities (NNAAC) National Organization for Women
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • New Mexico Immigrant Law Center
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
  • Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative) Open The Government
  • OpenMedia
  • Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability
  • Project On Government Oversight
  • Restore The Fourth
  • Southeastern Immigrant Rights Network
  • S.T.O.P. – Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Sanctuary DMV
  • Twin Cities Innovation Alliance
  • X-Lab
  • UndocuBlack Network
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee United We Dream Network
  • Upturn
  • Washington Defender Association
  • Win Without War
  • Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center

“We request that the Biden administration refrain from providing any new contracts to Clearview AI, and that any and all current or future use of the platform by federal agencies be suspended immediately, irrespective of the existence of a contract with the company,” the signatories wrote.

“Clearview AI’s continued violation of civil rights and privacy rights provide ample reason to discontinue its use.”

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