The road to hell is paved with good intentions. While the proverb may be a stretch for now, the latest lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) against Clearview AI certainly shows that good intentions, when acted upon, may have unintended consequences. Technology utilized in the name of public protection—whether from global pandemics or criminal activity—can have disastrous effects when it comes to civil liberties and privacy.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Clearview AI based on violations of Illinois residents’ privacy rights. Clearview AI is a technology company that scrapes images from the internet, primarily from various social media platforms, in order to create a searchable database of individual’s face prints. The company claimed that it sold access to its searchable database to hundreds of police departments and federal agencies in order to protect children and aid victims of crimes. However, a recent data breach showed that Clearview AI actually also sold or provided access to its searchable database to retail chains Walmart and Macys, the NBA, Equinox, and many other non-law enforcement entities.