U.S. Supreme Court rejects Facebook’s bid to review biometric privacy case

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Facebook’s bid to review biometric privacy case

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Facebook’s appeal of the decision to certify a Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) class action suit in federal court, writes The Hill.

In October, Facebook appealed for the dismissal of the Facebook vs. Patel case, arguing its facial recognition photo-tagging feature that identified users without their consent did not cause “real-world harm.”

The Ninth Circuit had already rejected Facebook’s motion to have the whole court hear its argument that the case should be dismissed for lack of standing in federal court.

“We conclude that the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests,” wrote at the time Circuit Court Judge Sandra Ikuta.

A letter from the Security Industry Association (SIA) and a coalition of organizations and trade associations was sent on October 16, outlining the positive impacts of facial recognition, emphasizing the variety of ways in which it is used and warning that a moratorium could have bad consequences for innovation and security.

In December, the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the body to accept Facebook’s petition for a review of a decision by the Ninth Circuit to allow a class-action suit filed against the company under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) to move forward.

In January 2020, TechFreedom also urged the Supreme Court to hear Facebook’s appeal.

Following the Supreme Court’s rejection, the potential multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit against Facebook will proceed.

“Although plaintiffs claim that their privacy interests have been violated, they have never alleged – much less shown – that they would have done anything differently, or that their circumstances would have changed in any way, if they had received the kind of notice and consent they alleged that [the Illinois law] requires, rather than the disclosures that Facebook actually provided to them,” Facebook wrote in its petition.

Under the law, companies must obtain written consent from users before deploying facial recognition to collect “face geometry” information, otherwise they could be sued for as much as $5,000 per violation.

Federal courts of appeal in the U.S. disagree over how much harm needs to be proven for the company to be taken to court for privacy violations.

Facebook declined to comment on the decision, but in the past, it claimed it fully disclosed how the biometric recognition technology was used and that users had the option to turn it off.

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