Facebook request to dismiss privacy lawsuit rejected

May 8, 2016 - 

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a federal judge has rejected Facebook’s request to dismiss a potential class-action privacy lawsuit over the company’s facial recognition technology.

The case alleges violations of the Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The Illinois statute requires companies that gather biometric data to notify people about the practice before collecting data, and to publish a schedule for destroying the information.

In August, a judge transferred the case to federal court in San Francisco under the terms of Facebook’s user agreement, which requires litigation against the company to be brought in its home state of California.

The plaintiff alleged that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act requires Facebook to get permission from users before creating and storing their “face templates” based on facial features in uploaded photos. Facebook argued that 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. The company also said that users have the option of deactivating the tag suggestion feature so that they won’t be automatically identified in photos on other accounts.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge James Donato denied a motion by Facebook seeking to dismiss the complaint and he also rejected Facebook’s effort to apply California law, stating in his opinion that Illinois would “suffer a complete negation of its biometric privacy protections” if he took the company’s position.

A report by TheStreet states that, “The class action lawsuit could lead to Facebook paying every user in Illinois $1,000-to-$5,000. If half of the state’s roughly 13 million people use Facebook, and the company loses and has to pay that fine, the bill could run from between $6.5 billion and $32.5 billion. Some estimates peg the state’s Facebook user base above 10 million, bringing the bill to $10 billion to $50 billion.”

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.