Biometric privacy suit against Clearview AI remanded to state court in blow to defense

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A biometric privacy lawsuit against Clearview AI has been remanded to Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois by a federal judge, reversing a previous venue change and likely ending any possibility that numerous suits against the company will be consolidated.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois ruled that because plaintiffs are seeking only statutory damages, not actual damages for “a concrete, particularized harm,” the suit fails to meet the criteria for standing in federal court.

The suit had previously been removed to federal court at the request of Clearview AI under the Class Action Fairness Act.

The suit is brought by the plaintiffs on the grounds that Clearview violated rules against profiting from sharing people’s biometric data, per subsection 15(c) of the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) of Illinois, rather than on allegations of having violated the informed consent statutes governing biometric data collection (subsection 15(a)), or failure to publish a data retention and destruction schedule (15(b)).

“Despite Clearview’s arguments that plaintiffs are attempting to manipulate their claims, as with all lawsuits, a plaintiff is the master of her own complaint,” Judge Coleman writes in the decision. “Plaintiffs purposely narrowed their claim to the general prohibition of Clearview selling and profiting from plaintiffs’ biometric data and filed their lawsuit in state court where such actions are allowed without the constraints of Article III standing.”

Coleman also noted the Illinois’ State Supreme Court’s ruling in Rosenbach v. Six Flags Enter. Corp. grants plaintiffs the right to seek damages for a mere statutory violation of BIPA.

Clearview had sought to consolidate all 11 class actions brought against it on biometric privacy grounds to be heard in a New York federal court.

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