Clearview AI Subpoenas Open The Government for Communications with Journalists

[UPDATE: After OTG went public about the subpoenas from Clearview AI, the company withdrew its subpoenas on September 27, 2021.]

The company demanded records after OTG exposed some law enforcement agencies’ use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology

Washington – Open The Government launched a joint project with MuckRock in 2019 that requested information from more than 100 police departments across the country about their use of facial recognition technology. The project’s findings subsequently led to a New York Times front-page exposé that revealed that a start-up, Clearview AI, was secretly scraping Americans’ images and personal information from social media sites and the web and selling the data to law enforcement agencies. Clearview AI recently subpoenaed OTG for all of the responses it received to Freedom of Information Act requests and all of its First Amendment protected communications with the media about the research project. The subpoenas stem from a lawsuit alleging Clearview committed privacy violations. The suit does not involve OTG.

OTG’s new web page Clearview AI Subpoenas OTG for Internal Records summarizes the implications of the subpoenas and key milestones of the organization’s advocacy efforts for greater transparency and accountability in the government’s use of such technology.

“Clearview’s subpoenas for our public records requests and all of our communications with the media were almost as shocking as learning about its invasive, scraping technology for the first time,” said Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of Open The Government. “The company’s disregard for First Amendment protected activity is a reflection of its troubling indifference towards our societal norms and expectations of privacy as it continues to sell billions of Americans’ images and personal information online to law enforcement agencies.”

Undeterred by the intrusive subpoenas, OTG will continue to advocate for the public’s right to information about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology, urging lawmakers to place a moratorium on its use and to apply FOIA to private contractors that hold private contractors such as Clearview AI accountable.