Case Against Clearview AI and Calif. Law Enforcement Defendants Joins MDL

A lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California will now proceed as part of the consumer privacy multidistrict litigation (MDL) ongoing in the Northern District of Illinois. In Tuesday’s decision, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) overrode the plaintiffs’ contentions about the dissimilarity of the suits in ruling that transfer would serve the overall interests of convenience and efficiency.

The California action accused Clearview of scraping the internet for photographs of the plaintiffs, analyzing them, then creating a searchable database allowing users to identify individuals by uploading a photograph, all without the plaintiffs’ consent. Additionally, the complaint asserted claims against the Alameda County District Attorney, Alameda Police Department, El Segundo Police Department, and Antioch Police Department (the municipal defendants) for making use of Clearview’s technology to take action against or chill protected speech activities.

Previously, the JPML ordered conditional transfer which the plaintiffs moved to vacate. Clearview AI and interim class counsel in the MDL opposed the motion while the municipal defendants did not respond. 

The plaintiffs argued that their case is “outside the MDL’s scope because it includes individual claims against four municipal defendants, is focused on fear of police action chilling protected speech activities, does not seek class certification, and seeks injunctive relief.” The panel found these arguments unpersuasive because of the lawsuits’ shared questions of fact. The JPML also opined that the California action would likely “benefit from the common discovery and the transferee judge’s expertise on the issues.”