Consumers Denied Preliminary Injunction in Clearview AI Privacy Litigation

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman declined the plaintiffs’ request to preliminarily enjoin Clearview AI’s business practices in a sweeping multidistrict litigation alleging that the company and other defendants scraped billions of images from the internet, scanned them, and catalogued individuals’ unique biometric identifiers for commercial use. Monday’s four-page opinion determined that the consumers failed to demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief.

Judge Johnson noted that since January, the defendants have altered their privacy practices. In particular, the opinion stated, Clearview has excluded photos bearing an Illinois geolocation from search results on its app, blocked login attempts from Illinois IP addresses as best as possible, and modified collection methods to avoid gathering photos of Illinois residents. In addition, the company has reportedly instituted other measures like employee cybersecurity training, encryption of the facial vectors it generates, and deployment of anti-intrusion devices.  

The court first considered the plaintiffs’ argument concerning Clearview’s purportedly inadequate security practices and the two data breaches exposing the company’s source code, employee information, and client list, but not facial images or vectors. These allegations suggested “a mere possibility of irreparable harm,” the court wrote, insufficient to warrant a preliminary injunction. In addition, the plaintiffs did not convince the court they would experience irreparable harm prior to final judgment in the case, even though the data breaches had already occurred.

Judge Johnson addressed the argument contained in the plaintiffs’ reply brief, that with two offshore subsidiaries, Clearview could move biometric data outside the U.S., making it more difficult for the plaintiffs to enforce their rights. The court ruled that the evidentiary record belied this contention. The Panama and Singapore-based businesses are neither serving customers, nor have they received Clearview’s authorization to provide its product domestically. “Under these circumstances, plaintiffs’ fear of a future injury is too speculative to support plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction,” the court concluded.

The plaintiffs are represented by Loevy & Lovey, Bursor & Fisher P.A., Hedin Hall LLP, and Neighborhood Legal LLC. Clearview AI and the other defendants are represented by Jenner & Block LLP and Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP.