The slow trend away from facial recognition technology

It’s been a busy few weeks for facial recognition technology. Its oft-maligned abilities frequently wind up in tales of privacy invasion, or false positives, or dubious data retention. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see big organisations backing away from how they expect to use it, or indeed deploy it already. Essentially, anyone in or around this area of work can expect bumpy PR incidents down the line.

The facial recognition tech cool-down of 2021

It’s such a hot-button issue that Amazon, already having called time on their tech being used by law enforcement, have recently extended their time-out from that field. It will still apparently be used for cases of trafficking, but more general use is a no-go for the immediate future.

Elsewhere, tools which allow anyone to search and make connections between different images are stirring up more privacy issues. It’s one of the ironies of this field that the people behind a tool which can draw astonishing links between photographs, insist on remaining completely anonymous.

On top of all that, the issue of facial recognition and policing refuses to go away. In the UK, a Watchdog would rather police “reasonably use” biometrics and surveillance, as opposed to a complete ban. What form said reasonable use would take, nobody yet knows.

With all of this churning away in the background, it’s time for Clearview AI to step up to the plate.

Clearview AI under the spotlight

The facial recognition company, frequently in the news even when they may not have been involved, find themselves at the heart of the facial recognition media storm currently playing out. Clearview AI, which matches faces in a database and provides software to a variety of companies and law enforcement, has run into a privacy roadblock.

That roadblock takes the form of multiple European privacy / digital rights organisations filing legal complaints. Said complaints have been filed in a variety of locations including the UK, Italy, Greece, and France.

Privacy International looking to hit a home run

Privacy International is front and center of the privacy actions against Clearview AI.

They argue that GDPR applies to Clearview’s collection / processing of faces online, because it’s “mass processing of European residents’ personal data”. Privacy AI then goes into detail about which aspects of GDPR cover the various forms of imagery collected, as well as highlighting how they believe Clearview AI “contravenes a number of other GDPR principles”. As they put it, instead of isolated cases peppering the privacy landscape, the complaints “seek a coordinated approach across Europe to tackle an inherently cross-border issue. The regulators have 3 months to respond after filing of the complaints.”

Facial recognition tech fighting a losing battle?

This is happening as individual States in the U.S. are digging their heels in against various aspects of facial recognition technology. It remains to be seen which camp will emerge victorious in this ongoing privacy battle. Given the reluctance of several organisations to get back into privacy related facial recognition issues, it looks like Clearview AI may be the so-called main character of this particular blowout for some time to come.