San Francisco-On August 14, The Verge and Tech Inquiry revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has signed a contract with notorious facial recognition vendor Clearview AI. The licensing agreement was with ICE division HSI (Homeland Security Investigations). HSI claims to be the ICE division that does not address civil immigration enforcement, but numerous actions in the State of California including raids in the cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland in 2017 have proven that to be false.
Clearview AI came to public attention in January after the NY Times published an expose detailing how the startup had assembled a vast database of billions of facial images taken from social media sites without consent and sold them to hundreds of law enforcement agencies nationwide. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Clearview AI in Illinois for violating the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act.
Multi-millionaire landlord Alastair MacTaggart has placed Proposition 24, a major overhaul of California's data privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, on the November ballot. Among the dozens of changes to CCPA proposed by Prop 24 are several that open the door to both Clearview AI and ICE.
Proposition 24 adds a clause to the definition of publicly available personal information that can facilitate Clearview AI's scraping of social media for photographs and images posted by consumers to their friends, followers or contacts.
Proposition 24: (Sec 1798.140) “For the purposes of this paragraph, "publicly available" means: Information that is lawfully made available from federal, state, or local government records, or if any such information that a business has a reasonable basis to believe is lawfully made available to the general public by the consumer or from widely distributed media, or by the consumer; or information made available by a person to whom the consumer has disclosed the information if the consumer has not restricted the information to a specific audience."
Worse, Prop 24 also constrains a consumers right to delete a vendor collection of their images before that collection is sold to ICE. Language that would be added to CCPA by the ballot initiative would change the requirement to “direct” third parties or service providers to remove the data upon request to “notify” and excuses businesses from the notification requirement if it “involves disproportionate effort”.
(Sec 1798.105). The service provider or contractor shall notify any service providers, contractors or third parties who may have accessed such personal Information from or through the service provider or contractor, unless the Information was accessed at the direction of the business, to delete the consumer's personal Information, unless this proves impossible or involves disproportionate effort.
Proposition 24 is, at best, confusing. While the above language changes seem to clearly enable Clearview's controversial business model by widening the definition of “publicly available information” to include distributed media and by blowing aside deletion requests being relayed to third parties, the new ballot initiative retains from the CCPA a clause that prohibits biometric collection without consent.
By posting a picture of their nephew's birthday party on Facebook, does a person consent to having a tech startup take that picture, turn it into a faceprint, put it in a database and sell access to it to ICE?
Clearview's answer appears to be yes. The company added CCPA information request, opt out, and request to delete forms to its website for Californians.
Proposition 24's business-friendly language pokes holes in Californian's protections for personal information from aggressive federal agencies that are violating human rights at every turn. Vulnerable immigrant families should not have to face having an innocent posting of a quinceañera celebration lead to the separation of children from their parents.