(Bloomberg) -- Clearview AI Inc. faces a 17 million-pound ($23 million) fine after the U.K.’s data protection watchdog said the facial-recognition firm may have collected images from a “substantial number” of British people without their knowledge.

Images in Clearview AI’s database “are likely to include the data of a substantial number of people from the U.K. and may have been gathered without people’s knowledge from publicly available information online, including social media platforms,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

The provisional findings follow a probe the ICO had opened with the Australian Information Commissioner last year to examine how the company’s facial-recognition technology uses people’s data. The ICO said its preliminary view is that the firm violated data protection rules “in several ways,” including by failing to “have a lawful reason for collecting the information” and for “failing to inform people in the U.K. about what is happening to their data.”

Clearview, which scrapes photos from social media accounts with the goal of helping law enforcement agencies, has come under increased scrutiny in Europe. It suspended a contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after regulators said they were investigating allegations Clearview collected personal information without consent and shared it with police.

“I am deeply disappointed” that the ICO “has misinterpreted my technology and intentions,” Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI, said in an emailed statement.

“I would welcome the opportunity to engage in conversation with leaders and lawmakers so the true value of this technology which has proven so essential to law enforcement can continue to make communities safe,” he said.



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