France slaps fine on face recognition firm Clearview AI

France on Thursday slapped a €20-million fine on US firm Clearview AI for breaching privacy laws, as pressure mounts on the controversial facial-recognition platform.

France slaps fine on face recognition firm Clearview AI
The logo of France's information technology watchdog, the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL)(Photo by Eric PIERMONT / AFP)

The company collects images of faces from websites and social media feeds without seeking permission and sells access to its vast database — reportedly around 20 billion pictures — to clients including law enforcement agencies.

Privacy activists around the world have raised objections to the business model, already winning a case in the United States that has forced the firm to stop selling its main database to private clients.

The French complaint to French privacy watchdog CNIL is one of a slew filed by activists across Europe that has already resulted in fines in Italy and Britain.

CNIL ruled last year that Clearview was processing personal data unlawfully and ordered it to stop, but said on Thursday that the firm had not responded.

In addition to the €20-million fine, CNIL once again ordered the firm to stop collecting data from people residing in France and
delete the data it had already collected.

The watchdog said there were “very serious risks to the fundamental rights of the data subjects” and gave the firm two months to comply or begin incurring fines of €100,000 per day.

Clearview boss Hoan Ton-That said in statements emailed to AFP that his company had no clients or premises in France and was not subject to EU privacy law, adding that his firm collected “public data from the open internet” and complied with all standards of privacy.

“There is no way to determine if a person has French citizenship purely from a public photo from the internet, and therefore it is impossible to delete data from French residents,” he added.

Clearview was formed five years ago and has since attracted almost $40 million in funding from investors including prominent Silicon Valley conservative Peter Thiel, according to the Crunchbase website.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


10 apps to make your life easier during a French strike

If you find yourself in France during a strike, do not fear. Here are some apps that will help you get around.

10 apps to make your life easier during a French strike

Strikes are commonplace in France, and are often highly disruptive, but there are ways to make life run more smoothly during a strike period, including these helpful apps.

SNCF Connect

If you have any train travel planned over a French strike, then this is the app to keep an eye on. You’ll be able to get up to date information, including traffic alerts, for your journey. You can also book tickets on the app.

The SNCF website will publish traffic timetables 24 hours ahead of planned strikes, and if you have tickets booked SNCF will alert you if your train is cancelled.

Essence – Gasoil Now 

With a 4.6 star rating in the Apple App store, this programme will help you find the nearest filling station, and compare nearby options based on price. The app also offers real-time user reports, which can help you avoid long queues. Alternatively, you can download the application “Gaspal” to help navigate to nearby affordable filling stations. The app is available in Spain and Italy as well. 


If you’re in a city on a strike day, it’s likely that public transport will be disrupted – but there are other transport options including hiring a bike.

Most major French cities have public bike rental options controlled through an app – Le Vélo in Marseille, Vélo Bleu in Nice, and Vélo-V in Lyon. 

In Paris, the primary choice would be Vélib which was launched in 2007. With over 1,400 docking points across the Greater Paris area, Vélib stations are usually easy to find. You can also opt for an electric bike (these are coloured blue, instead of green). 

You can rent the bike for 45 minutes for just €3 or you can consider a 24-hour rental, which would cost €5. Normally, at the Vélib station you should be able to enter your credit card information and make an account, but if that is not available then you can do so online.

READ MORE: How to stop worrying and learn to love French strikes

Keep in mind that during strikes, bike-hire services are in high demand so it may be difficult to find an available bike. The application offers a mapping service to help you find available bikes and parking spaces across the city.

Google Maps and Citymapper 

If you’re in a city, the other option is to walk, so it’s a good idea to stock up on map applications before a French strike. These will help you find the fastest way to get around, though you will want to have more than one downloaded to help double check that the information is correct. 

Bonjour RATP

This is the city of Paris’ metro system application. You can map out your trip and you can also check the “Traffic” update to see which lines are running and which are impacted by disruptions. The application Île de France Mobilités covers the whole of the greater Paris region.

If you are planning to visit other French cities during a strike, it is also worth downloading their local transport applications to get the most up-to-date information. If you plan to visit Lyon, the app “TCL” will give you city-specific information. Similarly, when visiting Bordeaux you can build your itinerary with the app “TBM” and for Marseille you can download “RTM.” 


While Uber might be the rideshare app you would normally opt for, using an alternative may be better during a strike when there is high demand. Services may be more expensive than usual, as well as being in high demand, so having a few applications, such as Bolt, Heetch, or Marcel may help you to find a rideshare faster and for a better price.


If you are planning to be in Paris, and you need to get somewhere by a designated time, you may want to consider booking a taxi in advance. One way you can do this is with the G7 app, which connects you with an official Paris taxi – the same ones that you can hail in the street, but the app allows you to book up to 30 days in advance, so it’s handy for late night or early morning airport runs. It also has an option to select ‘pet friendly’ if you’re travelling with an animal. 

Payment works in the same way as Uber – users save their credit card information on the app and therefore do not need to pay on board.  At the conclusion of the ride, the fare will be charged and the user will receive a voucher by email. 


This translation app might be a lifesaver for you during a French strike if you are feeling less confident about your language-abilities. It is quick and has a microphone, so it can play your translation aloud too. You may also consider the Google Translate app. 

The Local 

You can keep up to date with all strike-related information both on The Local’s website at the dedicated “strikes” page, and on our mobile application. 


C’est la grève

This website allows you to see any ongoing or future strikes to take place in France. 

Bison futé

This traffic website offers detailed predictions for slowdowns on French motorways, as well as tips for which roads to avoid. 


This French government website offers an interactive map to help you keep track of fuel prices and availability across the country, which is especially helpful during nationwide strikes.