Troubled Clearview AI pulls out of Canada ⁠— before it was pushed

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Dystopian surveillance firm Clearview AI has stopped offering its facial recognition service in Canada, in response to a probe by data protection authorities.

“The investigation of Clearview by privacy protection authorities for Canada, Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec remains open,” the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said in a statement.

The probe was opened in February, following reports that Clearview was collecting personal information without consent. The authorities still plan to issue findings from the investigation.

[Read: Clearview AI can be fun — if you’re dirty, stinking rich]

The exit is a big blow to the New York-based startup. Outside of the US, Clearview’s biggest market had been Canada. More than 30 law enforcement agencies in the country had used the software, including the Toronto Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

According to Canada’s privacy watchdog, the RCMP had been its last remaining client in the country. The suspension of that contract brings Clearview’s Canadian adventure to an end — at least for now.

Clearview on the way out?

Amid the protests against police brutality and racism triggered by the killing of George Floyd, tech giants have publicly stepped back from facial recognition.

Not good old Clearview AI though. The startup still wants to sell its app to law enforcement agencies — all for the good of humanity, of course.

“While Amazon, Google, and IBM have decided to exit the marketplace, Clearview AI believes in the mission of responsibly used facial recognition to protect children, victims of financial fraud, and other crimes that afflict our communities,” CEO Hoan Ton-That said last month.

Indeed, Big Tech’s departure from the market left a gaping facial recognition hole that Clearview could have filled. But regulators are starting to shove the company out before it can squeeze any further in.

In Canada, it looks like Clearview chose to jump before it was pushed.

Published July 7, 2020 — 11:06 UTC


Thomas Macaulay

2020-07-07 07:06:17

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