France’s data privacy watchdog CNIL has ordered controversial facial recognition start-up Clearview AI that has collected 10 billion images worldwide to stop using data from people based in the country.

According to the regulator, the AI startup is being used as a search engine for faces by various intelligence agencies and the firm does not ask for the prior consent of those whose images it collected online.

“We only collect public data from the open internet and comply with all standards of privacy and law. My intentions and those of my company have always been to help communities and their people to live better, safer lives,” Techcrunch quoted CEO Hoan Ton-That as saying.

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The data protection authority has ordered Clearview to stop extracting images from people on French territory and to delete the data it had gathered in this manner within two months.

The US based facial recognition software firm claims its technology has helped law enforcement track down hundreds of at-large criminals, including paedophiles, terrorists and sex traffickers.

Earlier, several tech companies including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube demanded that Clearview AI must stop collecting images from their platforms.

The controversial app uses images to find a match. These images have been sourced from various social media sites including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Besides law enforcement agencies, the technology offered by Clearview AI has been used by several other entities including Walmart and the NBA.

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