Facebook facial recognition class action cases moved from Chicago to San Francisco

August 5, 2015 - 

Three class actions against Facebook over allegations that the social media giant’s tag suggestion feature violates users’ privacy rights, have been moved from Chicago’s federal courts to San Francisco’s, according to a report by Cook County Record.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel granted Facebook’s request to transfer the cases filed this spring in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago to the Northern District of California.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs also supported the request to transfer the cases.

On April 1, plaintiff Carlo Licata, represented by attorney Jay Edelson, of Edelson P.C., of Chicago, filed the first of the three class action suits against Facebook in Cook County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit was soon followed in federal court by two additional lawsuits launched by plaintiff Adam Pezen, represented by attorney Joel H. Bernstein, of Labaton Sucharow, of New York, on April 21, and plaintiff Nimesh Patel, represented by attorneys Shawn A. Williams and Paul Geller, of Robbins Geller Rudman, of San Francisco, on May 14.

All three cases center on similar allegations involving Facebook’s new photo tagging system, which uses facial recognition technology to identify people in photos posted by users. Facebook then suggest users to “tag” their friends in the photos.

Although Facebook defends the practice as being a “convenience feature,” the plaintiffs argue that the use of facial recognition technology is Facebook’s way of secretly collecting, using and storing the biometric data of users.

The lawsuits allege that these actions are in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.
Plaintiffs have asked the judge to create a class of users, which could amount to millions of users and result in award damages of $5,000 per violation.

In early July, Facebook’s lawyers requested the judge to relocate the case to the San Francisco Bay Area of California, home of Facebook’s corporate headquarters.

Facebook has a clearly marked clause in its user agreement, which users must consent to when registering with the site, that all disputes between the company and its users must be handled in the Northern California federal courts.

The attorneys for the three plaintiffs filed a joint stipulation with the court on July 27, indicating their intent to consolidate the cases into a single class action, as well as agreeing to the transfer “to avoid unnecessary delay” for the case.

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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.