Google and YouTube have just sent a cease-and-desist letter to Clearview AI, demanding the app to stop collecting facial data of people on their platforms.

For a little context, Clearview AI is a facial recognition app that is collecting images from websites and social media platforms according to CBS News. Clearview AI claims to identify a person by comparing their picture to its database that’s composed of three billion images taken from the internet. The system is said to be 99.6% accurate, according to CEO Hoan Ton-That. This app is only offered to those in law enforcement, allowing them to identify criminals, according to Ton-That. He affirms it isn’t a surveillance tool:

“You have to remember that this is only used for investigations after the fact. This is not a 24/7 surveillance system,” he said.

YouTube sends a cease-and-desist letter to Clearview AI

So, Google and YouTube have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Clearview AI. While Ton-That argued that Clearview AI has a First Amendment right to access public data, Google and YouTube say they are violating their policies.

“YouTube’s Terms of Service explicitly forbid collecting data that can be used to identify a person,” said a YouTube spokesperson to The Verge. “Clearview has publicly admitted to doing exactly that, and in response we sent them a cease and desist letter.”

This isn’t the first time Clearview AI has been told to stop collecting data. Twitter sent a very similar letter in January to the AI app. Twitter too is trying to stop the app from taking pictures from their platform. Facebook and Venmo have also chimed in saying that Clearview AI is violating their policies. However, they haven’t sent cease-and-desist letters yet.

Ton-That argued that Clearview AI is practically a search engine for faces for law enforcement: “Google can pull in information from all different websites,” he said. “So if it’s public and it’s out there and could be inside Google search engine, it can be inside ours as well.”

However, YouTube Spokesperson Alex Joseph disagreed: “Most websites want to be included in Google Search, and we give webmasters control over what information from their site is included in our search results, including the option to opt-out entirely. Clearview secretly collected image data of individuals without their consent, and in violation of rules explicitly forbidding them from doing so.”

Does this AI app cross the line?

One thing is clear here, Clearview AI doesn’t have permission to use the photos they are taking from the internet. It’s taking photos from online services without asking and violating many policies. However, how enforceable can YouTube’s terms of services be? Clearview isn’t just collecting photos, they are using photos and videos to train their AI to identify people. How far can they go until it becomes a legal issue? It may already be. Though, YouTube has developed similar AI research in the same way.

We will have to see if any of these tech companies can enforce their policies. What do you think? Is Clearview AI crossing a line it shouldn’t be or are they justified? Is YouTube violating their own policies? Are they in the right to collect similar data of videos on their own platform? Let us know below.