Shutterfly slapped with class action lawsuit over facial recognition use

June 19, 2015 - 

A Chicago man has filed a class action lawsuit against Shutterfly over allegations that the photo-book service is violating a law that restricts the way that companies gather biometric data, according to a report by Fortune.

Brian Norberg is seeking at least $5 million in damages, on behalf of those people whose faces have been added to the Shutterfly database without their consent.

Filed Wednesday in Illinois federal court, the lawsuit follows recent criticism over the use of facial recognition technology by companies to create “faceprints,” which provide a unique identifier based on the facial patterns of an individual.

Companies like Shutterfly and Facebook use faceprints to tag photos, however, the technology could potentially violate privacy laws because it can be used to identify an individual either online or in public.

In the lawsuit, Brian Norberg claims he has never used Shutterfly but that another individual uploaded his photo and “tagged” it with his name.

This subsequently led the company to add Norberg’s face to its biometrics database, and create a unique profile based on the biometric data.

A few months later, the other individual uploaded more photos of Norberg and Shutterfly automatically recognized images of him, the lawsuit claims.

Norberg claims that Shutterfly violated an Illinois state law that states that all companies must notify people when collecting and using their biometric data.

The class action suit seeks $1,000 or $5,000 for every Illinois resident whose face was added to Shutterfly’s database.

The case is similar to a separate class action lawsuit filed against Facebook in March, which claims that the social network giant first began violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy act of 2008 in 2010 in a “purported attempt to make the process of tagging friends easier.”

Both the Shutterfly and Facebook lawsuits were filed in Chicago because Illinois, along with Texas, are the only two states with a law that places restrictions on how companies can use biometric data.

Previously reported, Facebook recently rolled out a new service called “Moments” that expands the use of its “faceprint” technology, however, the feature will not be launched in Europe any time soon.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.