Pilfering and repurposing our images is a threat to our very selfhood

Hoan Ton-That, the founder of Clearview AI, tests the company's app in New York on Jan. 10.
Hoan Ton-That, the founder of Clearview AI, tests the company's app in New York on Jan. 10.Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Re “Getting the First Amendment wrong” by Woodrow Hartzog and Neil Richards (Opinion, Sept. 4): When they wrote their 1890 Harvard Law Review article “The Right to Privacy,” Louis D. Brandeis and Samuel D. Warren characterized “thoughts, emotions, and sensations” as legally protected and went on to argue that everyone has a “right to one’s personality.” While Clearview AI’s arguments regarding its cache of scraped photos run afoul of the First Amendment, there is even more at stake. Pilfering and repurposing our images also threatens our selfhood, our personalities, and indeed our mental health.

In their privacy writings, Brandeis and Warren noted that the intensity and complexity of life had rendered privacy even more essential. In the subsequent 130 years, our world has grown even more complex, making privacy, along with some hope to be “left alone,” increasingly essential.


As companies such as Clearview AI further erode the privacy interests of Americans, we will be left with impaired selves and a stunted ability to develop our personalities. Too many studies have linked social media use with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. Pile on the social media abuse Clearview AI hawks, and America is headed toward its next pandemic.

Karen Katz


The writer is a therapist working in community mental health. Formerly, she practiced law and was the director of Suffolk University Law School’s intellectual property programs.