Class Action Lawsuit Over Facebook Biometrics to Proceed

Paul Tong  Op-Art

A federal judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit including millions of Facebook users can proceed with their claims that the social media firm violated an IL law relating to the collection and storage of biometric data without users consent, according to Bloomberg.

The decision comes days after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced intensive questioning by United States lawmakers over the company's collection and use of user data.

Not very long after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced Congress regarding Facebook's poor handling of users' data as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company has now been accused of illicitly obtaining users' biometric information through the use of facial recognition technology.

According to the judge's order, damages could rack up to billions of dollars if Facebook loses. But for US District Judge James Donato, it was an argument that fell flat: In the spring of 2016, he rejected Facebook's request to have the case dismissed on these grounds, writing that "Illinois will suffer a complete negation of its biometric privacy protections for its citizens if California law is applied".


U.S. District Judge James Donato's decision to let the lawsuit proceed as a class action is a significant step for users seeking to put Facebook on the hook for fines of $1,000 to $5,000 (U.S.) for each time a person's image is used without permission under a unique IL law.

It involves the "tag suggestions" technology, which spots users' friends in uploaded photos.

The plaintiffs say Facebook's creation and storing of face templates for automatic photo-tagging purposes is prohibited under BIPA. The judge said the potential damages could amount to billions of dollars. While not trivial, BIPA's statutory damages are not enough to incentivize individual plaintiffs given the high costs of pursuing discovery on Facebook's software and code base and Facebook's willingness to litigate the case...

The feature is not available to users in most countries, including the United Kingdom - and can be turned off in settings for USA users. Users sued in 2015 in a class-action lawsuit, which finally came into legal fruition earlier today, so to speak. Facebook switched the feature off in Europe in 2012 after an audit by Ireland's data watchdog.

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