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Controversial biometric search engine Clearview AI raises $30m in a Series B, as investors duck the limelight

Lawyers are expensive...

Investors have pumped $30 million into New York-based Clearview AI, a company that claims to scraped over three billion images from the public internet to create a facial recognition tool -- although they've been coy about doing so, amid an ongoing flurry of lawsuits against the controversial company.

“Law enforcement agencies continue to evolve and adopt new technology by necessity, and Clearview’s revolutionary image search and identification capabilities have proven to be a game-changer in bringing unidentified criminals to justice,” said Hoan Ton-That, Co-Founder and CEO of Clearview AI in a release.

Unusually, the company did not name any of the investors in the Series B funding round  -- who may be leery of the reputational risk associated with the company. Clearview AI merely said July 26 that they include "funds from institutional investors and family offices.

In December 2019, Clearview secured $7 million in Series A funding. Prior investors include Peter Thiel and Naval Ravikant. It says it "searches the open web; we cannot and do not search any private or protected information, including private social media accounts." That has not stopped it facing multiple lawsuits in numerous jurisdictions, as well as multiple cease-and-desist orders from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other companies over its practices.

On 9 July 2020, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the UK Information Commissioner’s Office announced they have opened a joint investigation into the personal information handling practices of Clearview AI Inc. They have not commented since. The company says it has scraped billions of images from "public-only web sources, including news media, mugshot websites, public social media, and many other open sources. Law enforcement agencies that use Clearview AI receive high-quality leads with fewer resources expended. These leads, when supported by other evidence, help law officials accurately and rapidly identify suspects, protect victims, and keep communities safe."

See also: Warnings over remote proctoring data protection, DPIA need, after trainee barristers’ exam imbroglio.