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EU doubts if Clearview AI is legal

It’s time for data scientists to understand the implications of privacy regulations

Obstacles continue to dog Clearview AI – the closely guarded facial recognition developer that started making waves ever since it went public with its innovation. The fact that the company sourced facial images for its database from random websites over the internet had always been questioned by legal experts. The latest setback comes from the European Union, as it expresses doubts over the legal validity of Clearview’s mode of operation. This will definitely hinder the company’s planned advent into Europe.

There is no doubt that data analytics as an emerging domain is showing immense promise. Authorities around the world are increasingly relying on innovative tools to capture data real life and make key decisions based on their analysis. Consequently, data science and analytics is now one of the foremost career options for technology students. However, several recent controversies regarding the regulatory aspects of data capture and privacy reveals that future data scientists will be well advised to study more than technology to cope up with unforeseen challenges. Legal knowledge may be one of them – as is evident from the Clearview fiasco.

Clearview is no stranger to legal controversy. Several suites have already been filed against them over data privacy issues. The company even went on the defensive by declaring that it pledges not to allow private firms to access its technology. That, clearly, was not enough in an increasingly volatile society where governmental surveillance and racial discrimination are sparking widespread discontent. Tech giants who were already developing similar facial recognition products have either put them on hold (like Amazon) or scrapped the projects altogether (like IBM).

Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That had so long been extremely confident that the high accuracy level of their technology will only help in avoiding discriminatory misidentification. That argument does not seem to have cut much ice with the European authorities, though. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) categorically stated that using Clearview AI technology would “likely not be consistent with the EU data protection regime.”  It also expressed doubts as to whether any member country has“a legal basis” for using such services.

In an increasingly intolerant and distrustful world, any future innovation dealing with public data may need to be validated from all possible legal angles. Surely, data scientists are taking note.

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