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Google denied immediate appeal to ruling in face recognition suit


A federal judge has denied a request by Google to immediately appeal his ruling in a class-action lawsuit that alleges the company’s facial recognition technology violates an Illinois privacy law, according to a report by MediaPost.

The decision comes a few months after a putative class of consumers said that Google could not stay proceedings to appeal parts of U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang’s refusal to dismiss the biometric privacy violation claims.

Based on the judge’s order, Illinois residents Lindabeth Rivera and Joseph Weiss are now free to proceed with a class-action complaint that alleges that Google violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Passed in 2008, the law requires companies to get written consent from individuals before they collect certain biometric data, including fingerprints, voiceprints and scans of face geometry.

However, BIPA specifically omits “photos” from the definition of “biometric identifiers, and excludes information derived from photos from a separate definition of “biometric information.”

Google initially claimed that Illinois lawmakers did not intend to regulate faceprints that were generated from images, and that the law only applies to faceprints taken from in-person scans.

Judge Chang rejected this argument and ruled that BIPA covers “scans of facial geometry” in any capacity, regardless of the process in which the scans are made.

Google then called on Chang to authorize an immediate appeal to the 7th Circuit, stating that an appellate court should get to decide on whether the Illinois law covers faceprints generated from photos.

Chang denied this request and ruled that there was no “substantial ground” for a difference of opinion about whether the Illinois law covers faceprints created from images.

“There is literally no precedent on Google’s side when it argues that, in order to qualify as a ‘biometric identifier,’ scans of face geometry must be conducted in person rather than generated from a photograph,” Chang wrote in his ruling.

Judge Chang also left open the possibility of authorizing an appeal to the 7th Circuit in the future.

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