Clearwater AI agrees to restrict sales of facial recognition technology

In a landmark settlement, facial recognition company Clearwater AI, known for downloading billions of user photos from social media and other websites to build a face-search database for use by law enforcement, has agreed to cease sales to private companies and individuals in the United States.

Filed in Illinois’ federal court on Monday, the settlement marks the most significant action against the New York-based company to date, and reigns in a technology that has reportedly been used by Ukraine to track “people of interest” during the ongoing Russian invasion. 

The lawsuit was brought by the non-profit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Mujeres Latinas en Acción, among others, in 2020 over alleged violations of an Illinois digital privacy law, with the settlement pending approval by a federal judge. Adopted in 2008, the Illinois law, known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), has so far led to several key tech-privacy settlements, including a $550 million settlement from Facebook related to its facial recognition use.

Although Clearwater AI has agreed to stop selling its services to the Illinois government and local police services for five years, the company will continue to offer its services to other law enforcement and federal agencies, and

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