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Clearview AI Biometric Data Collection Litigation

Two large data privacy multidistrict litigations (MDLs) brought against Clearview AI and Blackbaud are headed to federal courts in Illinois and South Carolina for consolidated proceedings.

Since January 2020, when news broke over Clearview AI’s dubious personal data gathering practices, several class action cases have been filed against the company and others using data collection software that may violation privacy protection statutes.

Clearview uses a facial recognition software to perform image scans from millions of images from social media platforms and other Websites. The company has created a biometric database of these images, which in turn can be used to match an image of a person to a pre-existing image, in order to identify that person. The database is then provided to Clearview’s clients, which reportedly includes law enforcement and government agencies.

Clearview is facing allegations that they violated a variety of laws by obtaining facial images without consent. There is a law called the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) which regulates the storage and sale of biometric data. Several lawsuits have been filed against Clearview AI which allege that the company’s practices violate BIPA. 

Clearview has claimed that the use of publically-available images is permissible, and that they have a First Amendment right to access public information. The company has also argued that the activity of search engines have historically been allowed First Amendment protections, and as a result, individuals featured in their photo database may have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has addressed Clearview’s First Amendment argument, and say that although Clearview sells its service to law enforcement, this does not make collecting personal data a matter of public concern.

Data breach MDLs are becoming increasingly common. Plaintiffs are presenting allegations that Clearview and other defendants have improperly collected, captured, obtained, distributed, and sold Americans’ biometric data. These MDLs are crucial and perhaps a harbinger of more data privacy litigation to come.

The Lyon Firm has years of experience litigating data privacy cases and has filed a number of class actions on behalf of plaintiffs nationwide. We are currently investigation data misuse lawsuits and biometric data collection practices that may violate state and federal privacy law.


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