Clearview AI is Offering a Stake in Its Company to the People Whose Photos It Stole

facial recognition

Clearview AI, a facial recognition start-up that scraped more than 30 billion photos from social media, can’t afford to pay the settlement bill from its class-action lawsuit so is offering Americans a stake in its company instead.

The New York-based company was sued in a federal court in Chicago in litigation that has proven so costly that Clearview AI says it will go bankrupt before making it to trial.

The unusual settlement offers members of the lawsuit a collective 23 percent stake in Clearview AI; an amount that is currently valued at $52 million, per The New York Times.

Members of the class could be literally anyone in the United States who has posted a photo of themselves online so anyone who does submit a claim could be entitled to a cut of the proceeds from a public flotation or an acquisition.

Alternatively, the class could sell its stake or collect 17 percent of Clearview’s revenue in two years’ time.

“Clearview AI is pleased to have reached an agreement in this class-action settlement,” says the company’s lawyer, Jim Thompson, a partner at Lynch Thompson in Chicago.

However, the judge still needs to approve the settlement and suitable notice of the settlement will have to be made on platforms including Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), Tumblr, Flickr, and other websites Clearview scraped photos from.

What is Clearview AI?

Despite its legal woes, the facial recognition tech company remains active and is currently being used by more than 2,400 law enforcement agencies around the United States.

Clearview AI was fined $9.5 million for illegally collecting people’s photos by the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office, France ordered it to delete its database of French citizens, and it was permanently banned from making its database available to most businesses and private entities in the United States.

While the U.S. ban does not prevent law enforcement from using Clearview AI, around 17 cities have banned it including Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. But those appear to be exceptions to the rule.

The Miami Police Department confirmed it uses Clearview AI regularly — a rare admission by law enforcement.

“We don’t make an arrest because an algorithm tells us to,” Assistant Chief of Police Armando Aguilar told the BBC. “We either put that name in a photographic line-up or we go about solving the case through traditional means.”

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.