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Busy BIPA days: Amazon, 7-Eleven and rail company BNSF

Busy BIPA days: Amazon, 7-Eleven and rail company BNSF

A new class action filed against several of Amazon executives, including company founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy, claims investors were deliberately misled about the company’s compliance with a state biometrics privacy law.

Stephen G. Nelson claims in court documents that Amazon could be assailed in 14 other class actions, all alleging that the company has violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

The act prohibits any private entities from gathering or using an Illinois resident’s biometric data without first being seeking their consent and taking reasonable care of the information.

Nelson holds that besides Bezos and Jassy, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky and other board members and executives knew Amazon’s actions violated Illinois law and created unnecessary risk without fully informing shareholders.

Specifically, company executives have stored the biometric data of their workers, customers and minors in violation of BIPA.

Executives’ statements dating to 2019 seem to “cloud” the risk Amazon faced if someone took the company to court over the Illinois law, according to Nelson’s filing.

The suit accuses the executives and board members of breaching fiduciary duties, wasting corporate assets and unjustly enriching themselves. Among the remedies sought, Nelson wants all compensation of any kind paid to the defendants to be returned.

7-Eleven has 4 accusers

Convenience story giant 7-Eleven faces a possible BIPA class action proposed by four customers of the chain. Multiple locations allegedly used Clickit surveillance systems that scan faces and recognizes facial features without first getting written consent.

(7-Eleven also operates its proprietary biometric surveillance technology that, according to the lawsuit, violates BIPA. It also has had legal problems in Australia regarding facial recognition.)

Clickit, according to trade publisher ClassAction.org, reportedly tried to assuage concerns by saying data “can be deleted on a daily basis,” an option that would still run afoul of BIPA.

BNSF still says federal law protects it from BIPA

Lawyers for freight rail company BNSF continue to argue that federal security and industry uniformity concerns remove their client from review under BIPA. The case involves the collection of fingerprints from truck drivers who access secure areas of Illinois rail yards.

The collection took place without a written release by drivers, a violation of BIPA, according to reporting by the Cook County Record.

The court battle has been waged for a number of years, and it has not been going well for BNSF. BNSF claims the Railroad Safety Act and other federal laws pre-empt BIPA, an argument which has been rejected. Company lawyers have now filed documents asking that the judge allow the Seventh Circuit to review the pre-emption decision.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly acknowledges the very real risks faced by the rail industry and infrastructure companies but has held that notifying individuals about biometric collection does not affect that.

In fact, according to the Record, BNSF uses a phone app in some yards to control access, and the app does not violate BIPA.

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