Shutterfly calls for dismissal of lawsuit involving facial recognition database

August 4, 2015 - 

Shutterfly is requesting a federal judge in Illinois to throw out a lawsuit that alleges the photo-book service is violating a law that restricts the way that companies gather biometric data, according to a report by Media Post.

“Helping a user re-identify his own friends within his own digital photo album does not violate any law,” Shutterfly writes in a dismissal motion filed on Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle.

The move is in response to a class lawsuit filed against Shutterfly in June by a Chicago resident Brian Norberg, alleging that the company is violating an Illinois biometric privacy law by adding his “faceprint” to a database after his photo was uploaded to the service by another individual.

In his original complaint, Norberg said that he never authorized Shutterfly to include the “biometric identifiers or biometric information associated with his face template” in the database.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which was passed in 2008, requires companies to obtain written consent from individuals before acquiring any “face geometry,” fingerprints, retinal scans, and other biometric data.

That legislation also requires companies that collect biometric data to alert individuals about the practice, and to publish a schedule for eliminating the information.

Shutterfly defended its practices, stating that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act does not pertain to “photographs and any information gleaned from photographs” as they “cannot be biometric identifiers”.

The Illinois privacy law explicitly states that photographs are not considered a biometric identifier, and instead, defines a biometric identifier as a “scan of hand or face geometry”.

Shutterfly said that the “face geometry” data is only regulated when it stems from a “physical, in-person scan” of an individual’s face.

The photo-book service also pointed out that Illinois lawmakers passed the privacy law over concerns about companies’ use of facial recognition data for security screenings or financial transactions, and not for “scans of pixels in a photograph used to help individuals organize their online photo albums.”

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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.