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Consumer privacy tension increases with voice and face biometrics cases across the US

Consumer privacy tension increases with voice and face biometrics cases across the US

A couple of biometrics lawsuits filed recently accuse JPMorgan Chase Bank of breaking California privacy law by recording customers’ phone calls without consent using Microsoft software.

And at the same time, verbal fireworks are flying over complaints that Samsung is trying to run out on its own arbitration rules concerning allegations that the South Korean electronics maker collected and stored facial biometric identifiers without consent, in violation of Illinois law.

Two proposed class actions have been filed against JPMorgan Chase by plaintiffs represented by the same attorney in different California districts. Both cases allege that biometric software, GateKeeper, by Nuance Communications, a Microsoft subsidiary, was used to collect, analyze and store her voice identifier.

Gatekeeper is billed as being able to rapidly deduce voice patterns indicating fraudulent actions. It monitors for effects that are supposed to indicate stress.

Doing so without her express consent, Turner alleges, violates California’s Invasion of Privacy Act. All three companies involved are accused of violating the privacy of plaintiff Dana Turner, a customer of the bank.

Turner’s case was filed October 6 in U.S. Central District of California. Another proposed class action against the trio was filed September 27 in the U.S. Northern District of California on behalf of Alfredo Chaidez.

In that class action, Chaidez alleges that GateKeeper authenticates customers’ identification “in a matter of seconds” without having to compare the live voiceprint to recorded files. It also acts as a lie detector. The state’s privacy law prohibits, among other things, examining or records voiceprints for stress.

A third, longer-lived biometrics case is sizing up as a real slug fest.

An attorney for 50,000 users of Samsung’s Galaxy phones accuses the company of “a blatant display of hubris and hypocrisy” and “duplicitous conduct” in a case that alleges the plaintiffs’ face selfies were collected and stored by facial recognition software without consent.

That would run afoul of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

That is that, but there is an arbitration clause in the contract signed by buyers of a Galaxy that prevents buyers from filing a class action to right a grievance. Such clauses generally increase a company’s chances of paying smaller compensation in instances when an arbiter, from the American Arbitration Association, decides in favor of a consumer.

In this case, tens of thousands of consumers simultaneously filed individual claims for arbitration against Samsung.

Court documents filed in the U.S. Northern District of Illinois state that Samsung has changed the conditions of arbitration, against its policies, in this case to make arbitration less attractive to consumers. For instance, it will engage in arbitration only if consumers pay its legal fees for doing so.

That differs from Samsung’s arbitration contract language, which states that the company will “pay a portion of the fees and costs necessary to commence arbitration,” according to reporting by law industry publication Law360.

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