UK, Australia launch joint investigation of facial recognition firm

UK, Australia launch joint investigation of facial recognition firm
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Regulators in the United Kingdom and Australia announced a joint investigation Thursday of Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition company that has scraped billions of photos from the internet.

The Information Commissioner offices of both countries said in a statement that their investigation will focus on how the company scrapes data and maintains it.

The probe will evaluate whether Clearview violated the U.K. Data Protection Act or the Australian Privacy Act.

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The Hill has reached out to Clearview for comment on the investigation.

The firm has been under intense scrutiny since reports found it to have amassed a database of more than 3 billion photos collected by scraping social media.

BuzzFeed News reported in February that police in the U.K. and Australia have conducted hundreds of searches using Clearview's tech.

"The investigation highlights the importance of enforcement cooperation in protecting the personal information of Australian and UK citizens in a globalised data environment," regulators said in Thursday's statement.

The investigation comes amid new backlash to facial recognition technology driven by the protests against police brutality organized after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Lawmakers last month introduced legislation that would prohibit federal use of facial recognition, a ban that could only be lifted by an act of Congress. It would also withhold federal funding from law enforcement if they fail to ban the tech themselves.

Tech giants like Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have scaled back their sales of facial recognition software to law enforcement recently. Clearview, however, has been marketing even more aggressively.