Clearview AI’s Attempt to Dismiss Civil Rights Claims is Denied

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois on Thursday held that Clearview AI’s  motion to dismiss and its motion to transfer this case to the Southern District of New York were both denied.  Clearview AI was attempting to dismiss a civil rights case alleging its company practices violated constitutional and state law.

Plaintiff, David Mutnick, brought this suit in January 2020 alleging the defendants scraped over three billion facial images from the internet and scanned the facial images’ biometric identifiers and information.  With the information and images, the defendants built a database enabling subscribers the ability to identify unknown individuals using only a photograph. The database also includes names, addresses, and other personal and private information.  Clearview AI has sold access to their facial recognition database to federal government agencies and law enforcement in Illinois. 

Clearview AI moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The court said in its argument that there was no personal jurisdiction because the company’s sworn declaration that they never targeted business in Illinois and never travelled to Illinois was “untenable.” Established Seventh Circuit precedent was used in the ruling, the order said when “there is a factual conflict between the record and defendants’ affidavits – as is the case here – courts resolve the conflict in plaintiff’s favor.”  

Additionally, the defendants’ other arguments failed because the court held it is not necessary that Clearview “exclusively targeted only Illinois.” Clearview tried to argue that it targeted photos from individuals all over the internet and were never focused on Illinois as a venue.  The court noted that the Illinois long-arm statute permits the exercise of jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, stating “thus the Court’s inquiry is whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendants comports with federal due process.”  Ultimately, the order stated the plaintiffs have satisfied specific personal jurisdiction over Clearview AI.

The court also ruled against Clearview’s motion to transfer the venue to the Southern District of New York, again.  After weighing the relevant factors of resources and witnesses, the court determined that “under the circumstances, the above mentioned-convenience factors do not weigh in favor of either forum in light of modern electronic discovery practices, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic where depositions and court hearings are done remotely via video and audio conferencing.”  Additionally, the public interest considerations weigh heavily in favor of the venue being in the Northern District of Illinois.  For example, Clearview AI had done business with the Chicago Police Department, and the court has more familiarity with the Illinois state law allegations. 

Plaintiff is being represented by Loevy & Loevy. Clearview AI is being represented by Jenner & Block.  Clearview AI’s answer is due on September 14.