Clearview AI Found to Have Broken Australian Privacy Law, Ordered to Delete Data

Published · Nov 05, 2021

Australia found that Clearview AI has broken local privacy law and ordered it to cease its operation in the region. The infamous data collection company is increasingly running afoul of governments worldwide.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) undertook a joint investigation of Clearview. It works with the Information Office Commission (IOC), the UK’s data protection agency.

The IOC is still gathering information and refraining from formal announcements. Meanwhile, the OAIC issued a statement with its findings in full.

Clearview AI has broken multiple privacy laws when it covertly collected mass data of Australians. The law in question is the Australian Privacy Act 1988. In its formal statement, the OAIC clearly laid out five ways in which Clearview broke the law.

The five ways mostly relate to the actual data collection process. This includes the fact that Clearview did not notify any of the targets. It did not give them the ability to opt-out or seek consent either.

This is not the first, nor the only instance of the use of bulk data by businesses. The most common examples are companies like background checks and people search sites.

The key difference is that the ways in which they use this information are limited. Moreover, users can usually request to delete their data from the company’s database or even remove it themselves.

Those targeted by Clearview had no such recourse. As such, Australia ordered Clearview to stop collecting data of Australians and delete the information it currently has.

To Give Up or Restructure

Despite criticism from multiple places and levels, Clearview insists that it won’t scale back its operation but accelerate it instead. Its data collection broke Australian law (which is similar to that of other countries) because of the way it’s structured.

Clearview bulk scrapes data off of public websites in an unofficial capacity. This means it’s not partnered with the sites it extracts from. Instead, it takes advantage of the mass of open data. As such, it can’t offer an opt-out or even alert users that it gathers their data.

Not that it necessarily would want to. Its selling point is that it can offer agencies billions of people’s information.

If regional governments keep clamping down on Clearview, it will have to decide whether to shut down or restructure the way it works. Only time will tell what path it takes.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.