Statement on ICE’s secretive facial recognition searches and Clearview AI Data Breach

Open The Government, in collaboration with MuckRock, uncovered that a secretive company, Clearview AI, was scraping billions of publicly available photos from social media accounts and selling them to law enforcement agencies. Shortly after Clearview reported its entire client list was stolen in a data breach, separate news reports revealed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has run facial recognition searches on drivers through the Maryland Image Repository System, which holds motor vehicle records and millions of driver’s license photos, without the state’s approval.

Following these developments, Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of Open The Government, released the following statement:

“Law enforcement’s unaccountable use of facial recognition technology puts Americans’ civil liberties at risk. ICE’s actions magnify the fact any restrictions or oversight measures available at the state and local level cannot protect against overreach by federal agencies. Where legal protections do exist, the secretive nature of facial recognition often allows for circumvention of the law.

The risks to privacy are compounded by federal and local law enforcement agencies’ use of facial recognition technology offered by unaccountable private companies such as Clearview.  Clearview’s response to a massive data breach as ‘normal in the 21st century’ illustrates the company’s alarming indifference towards the privacy and security of the individuals whose images it illicitly obtains online. In the absence of strong accountability safeguards that mitigate privacy risks, Congress must prioritize placing a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology and pass legislation that will regulate government’s use of the technology on a national scale and protect the public’s interest.”

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