Britain’s independent data privacy authority on Monday fined the facial recognition company Clearview AI £17 million, or $22.6 million, for failing to comply with the nation’s data protection laws.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it fined Clearview AI for failing to inform British residents that it was collecting billions of photos from sites including Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to build its facial recognition software. The I.C.O. ordered the company to stop processing the personal data of people in Britain and to delete their existing information.
Clearview AI can contest the fine and the data breach allegations, according to the I.C.O., which said it will make a final decision on the penalty by mid-2022. The I.C.O. said Clearview had been used by various British agencies. BuzzFeed News previously reported on leaked data that listed various British government agencies and police departments as having run searches with the facial recognition software.
“I have significant concerns that personal data was processed in a way that nobody in the U.K. will have expected,” Elizabeth Denham, Britain’s information commissioner, said in a statement.
In a statement, Clearview AI said the I.C.O.’s assertions were incorrect and that the company was considering an appeal. Clearview only “provides publicly available information from the internet to law enforcement agencies,” Kelly Hagedorn, a lawyer for the company, said in the statement.
“My company and I have acted in the best interests of the U.K. and their people by assisting law enforcement in solving heinous crimes against children, seniors and other victims of unscrupulous acts,” Hoan Ton-That, Clearview AI’s chief executive, said in a separate statement.
The fine was the biggest that Clearview AI has faced. Earlier this year, the company was fined €250,000 by a Swedish regulator for data privacy violations. The British fine, if it remains unchanged, would amount to nearly 60 percent of the $38 million in funding that Clearview AI has raised from investors. In July, the company raised $30 million.
This month, an Australian regulator also said the company had violated local privacy laws. The Office of the Australian Office Commissioner ordered Clearview AI to stop collecting data on its residents and to destroy data previously collected in the country. Canada also declared Clearview AI illegal in February.
Clearview AI recently ranked high on a federal test of facial recognition software.