Enlarge / The everything is watching, and Clearview's collecting the images.KENGKAT | Getty Images

Clearview AI's bread and butter is a tool providing facial recognition on a massive scale to law enforcement, federal agencies, private companies, and—apparently—nosy billionaires. The company has achieved this reportedly by scraping more or less the entire public Internet to assemble a database of more than 3 billion images. Now that there are spotlights on the secretive firm, however, Clearview is facing a barrage of lawsuits trying to stop it in its tracks.

The latest comes from Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, who filed suit against Clearview this week claiming violations of multiple state laws.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that Clearview, which is registered as a data broker under Vermont's Data Broker Law, "unlawfully acquires data from consumers and business concerns" in Vermont.

Clearview built its massive database by gobbling up "publicly available" data from the Internet's biggest platforms—including Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others—most of whom have since issued cease-and-desist letters telling Clearview in no uncertain terms to knock it off. These images are frequently of minors, the complaint notes, and Clearview admitted in its state filing to knowingly having images of minors collected without anyone's consent. Vermont's data law prohibits "fraudulent acquisition of brokered personal information," and the state argues that Clearview's screen-scraping tactics are exactly that.

What Clearview does with its ill-gotten data is also a problem, the state argues. The Green Mountain State's first issue is from a security perspective: the company has already suffered at least one data breach, in which its client list—which it has repeatedly refused to make public—was stolen. The second issue is privacy.

"Once entered into a facial-recognition database, the individual loses an enormous measure of anonymity, privacy, and freedom," the complaint reads. "Easily accessible facial recognition would permit governments, stalkers, predators, and con artists to instantly identify any stranger and, combined with other readily available data sources, know extensive details about their family, address, workplace, and other characteristics."

"Clearview encouraged police officers to use the tool on innocent citizens," the complaint adds, citing media reports about Clearview's marketing strategy to police.

The complaint goes on to explain that the "unfair acts and practices in commerce" Clearview's actions represent violate the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and:

offend public policy as it relates to the privacy of Vermont's consumers; are immoral, unethical, oppressive, and unscrupulous; and cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable to consumers themselves and not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.

Additionally, the complaiRead More – Source

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