Parents suing Facebook allege it profited from kids’ biometric data
A new federal class action lawsuit charges Facebook executives were until recently greedy hijackers of children’s personal data, including biometrics, violators of U.S. antitrust law and organizers of a conspiracy to unjustly enrich themselves using the “digital dossiers” of minors.
There is no word if they are alleged to be ugly as well. The understandably vituperative complaint suggests that Facebook (now organized under Meta Platforms), CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the operator of a Facebook data center in Huntsville, Alabama, for several years profited from collecting, storing, analyzing and disseminating minors’ personal data.
The plaintiffs, four parents in Alabama, say in Hill et al. v. Meta Platforms Inc. et al. (case 4:2022cv00001) that Facebook’s recent decision to destroy at least some of its hundreds of millions of biometric facial templates does not undo past harms, according to publisher Law360 (subscription required).
They want Facebook to pay a national class of 285 million minors $32 billion for alleged violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. A smaller class in Alabama is owed $240 million in damages, according to the suit.
The case clearly has a visceral impact for the plaintiffs, and could become another self-inflicted wound by Zuckerberg & Co. Every image purged by Meta Platforms is still in the possession of an unknown number of parties.
Beyond the whole idea of a multi-billion social media company trafficking in children’s data, biometrics such as face images cannot be changed if they are leaked, stolen or otherwise misused.
Facebook last year agreed to pay $650 million to settle a class action filed in Illinois. The company had used facial recognition to harvest and analyze images of its global members for commercial purposes without consent. Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act makes that illegal to do to state residents.
This is an issue that only seems to get messier.
A Bloomberg Law article sketches the paradox facing any business online — but particularly social media services, gaming apps and online retailers.
No ethical person wants to sell materials to a minor that the child legally cannot possess. But age verification most often means collecting or at least monitoring information and communications involving the would-be buyer.
That means trafficking in the data of at least some minors.
The article discusses possible solutions, but they are few.