Facebook calls for dismissal of facial recognition class action lawsuit

October 16, 2015 - 

Facebook has requested that a federal judge throw out a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the company is violating an Illinois privacy law by retaining a database of “faceprints”, according to a report by MediaPost.

The company says the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act does not bar companies from storing photos of faces or data generated from photos, but rather, only applies to faceprints that stem from in-person scans.

“Because plaintiffs’ claims rest entirely on information derived from photographs, their complaint should be dismissed with prejudice,” Facebook writes in papers filed last week with U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in San Francisco.

Facebook was slapped with the class action suit in April, which was followed by two additional class action lawsuits. In August, all three lawsuits were moved from Chicago’s federal courts to San Francisco.

The social media giant introduced in 2010 its automatic tagging feature, which uses facial recognition technology to identify people in photos posted by users. Facebook then suggest users to “tag” their friends in the photos.

The functionality required Facebook to keep a huge database of photos posted by users.

According to Illinois’ biometric privacy law, which was passed in 2008, all companies are required to get written consent from individuals before collecting a “scan of hand or face geometry” or any other biometric data.

The law also requires companies to notify individuals in advance about collecting their biometric data, as well as publish a timeframe for erasing the data.

Facebook says the regulations involving face-geometry scans apply only to faceprints taken from physical scans, such as those that “require a person to present his or her hand or face itself at a console or other type of scanner” — an argument that Shutterfly also made in a similar lawsuit in Illinois.

To date, no judges have ruled on whether the Illinois law applies to faceprints that are derived from photographs.

Although Illinois law does not define photos as “biometric identifiers,” the statute applies to scans of face geometry.

The law also includes a provision which states that “biometric information” does not include data taken from photos.

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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.