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Plaintiffs in Microsoft biometric privacy suit try to counter bid for summary judgment

Plaintiffs in Microsoft biometric privacy suit try to counter bid for summary judgment

Microsoft’s request for summary judgment in a face biometrics privacy court case is premature, according to plaintiffs in the class action.

The plaintiffs in Vance et al. vs. Microsoft (2:20-cv-01082-JLR) say they need six additional months to corral evidence, or discovery, needed to defend against Microsoft’s motion for a summary judgment. Microsoft’s motion is based on claims that it did nothing proscribed by Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act in the state, and that it did not use the data in question at all.

Arguments on the point could be heard this month.

In related case news, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart, agreed that Microsoft had to redact images of unidentified people in documents submitted by a plaintiff.

The people are not party to the case, cannot not easily be asked for consent to use the images and thus should not have images of their faces in public court documents, according to Judge Robart.

The 2020 class action illustrates one of the aspects of biometrics privacy that is hardest to defend against — the vagaries of an image’s chain of custody. Rights and permissions can and do get diluted or ignored as information changes hands.

It started with the Diversity in Faces database created by IBM from Yahoo!’s Flickr photo service, according to publisher Law Street Media. IBM’s 1 million-file dataset was to be used to minimize bias in facial recognition algorithms, as one of its creators explained to Biometric Update at the time of its launch. But consent was not sought for any of the images.

Google has been ensnared in the Diversity in Faces matter as well.

In Illinois, digital facial images cannot be used unless several criteria are met, including consent. IBM was subsequently sued.

The defendants in the case at hand say that Microsoft requested and received IBM’s dataset, also without meeting the consent requirements of Illinois law.

In October, the plaintiffs’ attorneys moved for class-action status and in December, Microsoft applied for summary judgment.

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