Clearview AI is currently the target of multiple class-action lawsuits and a joint UK and Australian investigation. That hasn’t kept investors away.
The New York-based startup, which collected billions of photos from the public internet to build a facial recognition tool to be used by law enforcement, has closed a Series B round. $30 million this month.
The investors, though undaunted by the lawsuits, did not want to be identified. Hoan Ton-That, the company’s chief executive officer, said it “includes institutional investors and private family offices”.
Previous investors include Peter Thiel, a tech billionaire; Kirenaga Partners, a New York-based venture capital firm; and Hal Lambert, founder of the Texas-based MAGA ETF, an investment fund that advertises itself as consisting of companies “consistent with the beliefs of the Republican Party.”
The round includes $8.6 million that was previously disclosed in SEC filings and reported by Buzzfeed. The company, founded in 2017, has now raised more than $38 million at a valuation of $130 million.
It’s not the only facial recognition startup that’s caught investors’ attention. AnyVision, an Israel-based competitor, raised $235 million this month in a funding round led by Softbank.
Clearview AI, which claims to have a database of three billion photos of people collected from sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Venmo, charges law enforcement agencies a subscription fee to use the product. its products. Searching for someone’s face will bring up other photos of the same person with links to where they appear on the web, making them identifiable. More than 1,800 law enforcement agencies have used Clearview’s products, according to a leaked user list obtained by Buzzfeed. A recent report by the US Government Accountability Office found that Clearview AI was used by 10 federal agencies, including the Secret Service and the FBI.
The company’s products have been made illegal in Canada, and it is being jointly investigated by the UK and Australia over the use of private information by citizens. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company in the US, including one in Illinois alleging violations of the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to be authorized people’s permission to use their fingerprints or include them in facial recognition databases.
“We’ve had some good news in the legal battles,” said Ton-That, referring to a federal judge’s recent decision to deny the company’s order to be barred pending the outcome. of the Illinois case. “Airbnb, Uber, PayPal all have an important legal element to their operations. People forget that once the company is so much bigger. Investors can see that it’s just part of the business.”
“Clearview is here to stay,” he added.