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A man whose face was "stolen" by an AI company said he's "no longer in control".
Matthias Marx, from Germany, said he first discovered back in 2020 that AI facial recognition company Clearview had used his image without his permission after reading about the organisation.
Curious to know whether he was on their database, which currently boasts "billions" of faces, Marx emailed Clearview, who responded about a month later with two screenshots, showing photos of Marx taken about ten years prior while he was taking part in a Google competition for engineers.
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Marx was naturally unhappy that his image was being used without his permission, Wired reported.
But to add insult to injury, he learned later that a photographer was selling the pictures on the stock photo website Alamy without his permission – something Clearview was allegedly aware of.
"I’m no longer in control of what people do with my data," Marx said.
Marx filed a complaint against the company with his local privacy regulator in Hamburg, the first of its kind filed against Clearview in Europe.
Fast forward to today, however, and it is unclear whether or not the problem has been resolved.
A spokesperson for the privacy regulator told Wired the case was closed – however Marx has yet to hear the outcome of his claim.
“It’s almost been two and a half years since I complained about ClearView AI, and the case is still open,” he said. “That is too slow, even if you take into account that it’s the first case of its kind.”
Clearview's clients, who include police, can upload a single photo to the site and use the company's facial recognition software to turn up online photos of the same person.
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Marx is now not the only person to have made a complaint against the company, and privacy groups have also thrown their weight behind the issue.
However, despite strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws being in place in Europe, it has reportedly been difficult to make companies like Clearview play by the rules.
In October, France's data protection authority fined Clearview €20m euros (£17.4m) for violating European privacy rules – becoming the third EU country to do so.
However, fines like this one issued by Italian and Greek authorities have reportedly not been paid yet – France said it cannot reveal whether Clearview has paid up because of privacy rules.
Clearview has also not removed EU faces from the platform.
Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That says it's impossible to remove all EU faces from the platform and keep them off, because of the way the AI works.
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"There is no way to determine if a person resides in the EU, purely from a public photo from the internet, and therefore it is impossible to delete data from EU residents," he said.
"Clearview AI only collects publicly available information from the internet, just like any other search engine, like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo."
Because the UK has left the EU, it is no longer regulated by GDPR but has kept the rules in UK law.
Clearview was also fined by the UK’s data protection watchdog and ordered to stop obtaining and using Brits' personal data – even if it is publicly available on the internet – and to delete existing data from their systems, Euronews reported earlier this year.
In response, Ton-That told the BBC at the time: “I am deeply disappointed that the UK Information Commissioner has misinterpreted my technology and intentions.
"We collect only public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law. I am disheartened by the misinterpretation of Clearview AI's technology to society."
The Daily Star has contacted Clearview for comment.
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- Artificial Intelligence
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