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Clearview AI sued over facial recognition privacy concerns

The app is an "insidious encroachment" on civil liberties, the complaint alleges.

Facial recognition

Clearview AI scrapes images from social media.

Getty Images

A lawsuit is taking aim at Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition app being used by US law enforcement to identify suspects and other people. The app is under fire after a New York Times investigation into the software company earlier this week. The app identifies people by comparing photos to a database of images scraped from social media and other sites, and then sells the info to law enforcement agencies.

"The conduct of Defendant Clearview, as alleged herein, epitomizes the insidious encroachment on an individual's liberty," says the complaint, reported earlier Friday by CNET sister site ZDNet. It alleges Clearview AI "acted out of pure greed."

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois East Division, alleges that Clearview AI's actions are a threat to civil liberties.

"Without obtaining any consent and without notice, Defendant Clearview used the internet to covertly gather information on millions of American citizens, collecting approximately three billion pictures of them, without any reason to suspect any of them of having done anything wrong, ever," the complaint alleges. "Clearview used artificial intelligence algorithms to scan the facial geometry of each individual depicted in the images, a technique that violates multiple privacy laws."

The lawsuit was filed by an individual in Illinois, but he's seeking class-action status.

The complaint is seeking damages, expungement of records and an injunction to stop Clearview from continuing its business. 

The lawsuit follows Democratic Sen. Edward Markey on Thursday saying Clearview's app may pose a "chilling" privacy risk.

Clearview AI didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.