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Microsoft, Amazon granted summary judgement in biometric data privacy lawsuits

Microsoft, Amazon granted summary judgement in biometric data privacy lawsuits

A Washington federal judge on Monday dismissed two putative class actions by Chicago residents Steven Vance and Tim Janecyk, accusing Microsoft and Amazon of violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by using IBM’s Diversity in Faces Dataset, which contains residents face biometrics, without their permission.

The renewed and granted motions for summary judgement from both companies, spotted by Law360, argue that under Illinois law, a statute does not apply outside the state unless it expressly provides to do so, and BIPA includes no provision of this kind.

Additionally, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart agreed that there was not sufficient evidence to support that Microsoft’s actions related to the BIPA claims occurred primarily in Illinois, confirming the tech giant’s claims that its relevant actions related to the photo data at issue took place in data centers in Washington and New York.

Vance and Janecyk also submitted an unjust enrichment claim against Microsoft, but Judge Robart ruled against it.

“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the court concludes plaintiffs have not met their burden to identify specific facts from which a jury could reasonably find that Microsoft unjustly retained a benefit to plaintiffs’ detriment,” the judge said in his Monday ruling.

As for Amazon, the company told the court it never used the data set to develop or improve any of its products or services so that it could not have been unjustly enriched by it.

“Even if the information in the [Diversity in Faces] Dataset constituted biometric information or identifiers (a contested fact), Amazon simply received no ‘benefit’ or ‘profit’ from it,” Amazon states.

On this basis, Judge Robart also granted the company’s summary judgement motion, along with a request from the company to have his order sealed.

The granted motions mean both defendants will avoid trials, and the lawsuits are likely to be dismissed.

The decisions could set a precedent making it difficult for Illinois’ residents to sue companies that do not have operations within Illinois under BIPA.

Amazon is also at the center of another lawsuit over the alleged use of voice biometrics by its virtual assistant Alexa.

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