Lawsuit alleges Facebook gathered unauthorized biometric data

Yolanda Curtis
April 17, 2018

Facebook has issued a statement saying it continues to believe the case has no merit, and that it will continue to fight it "vigorously".

Judge James Donato, a federal judge in San Francisco, dismissed Facebook's argument that the law didn't apply to it because its servers aren't located in the state. The lawsuit was originally filed back in 2015 by users in IL, accusing the social network of violating a law in the state that prohibits the collection of biometric info.

The ruling adds to the privacy woes mounting against Facebook over recent weeks, following disclosures that the personal information of millions of users was harvested by political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.


June 2011 was the date on which Facebook rolled out its "tag suggestions" feature. The lawsuit has three plaintiffs, but a class-action status could potentially include millions of IL users.

The company adds that the data it collects isn't covered by IL law, which explicitly prevents the collection of biometric data such as facial geometry, fingerprints and "voice prints".

"As more people become aware of the scope of Facebook's data collection and as consequences begin to attach to that data collection, whether economic or regulatory, Facebook will have to take a long look at its privacy practices and make changes consistent with user expectations and regulatory requirements", Shawn Williams, the plaintiffs' attorney, told Bloomberg. Specifically, Facebook has created, collected and stored over a billion "face templates" (or "face prints") - highly detailed geometric maps of the face - from over a billion individuals, millions of whom reside in the State of IL.


"Facebook should suspend further deployment of facial recognition pending the outcome of the FTC investigation", EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said.

The feature is not available to users in most countries, including the United Kingdom - and can be turned off in settings for USA users.

The company is now trying to roll out facial recognition technology inside the European Union again, according to the Irish Times, but on an opt-in basis. Per Facebook's request, the case has been moved from IL to California. However, the lawsuit is based on the earlier collection of user data. The company says that its "face templates" are not related to the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act.


In December 2017 Facebook announced that users would be notified if a picture of them was uploaded by someone else, even if they hadn't been tagged in it.

Other reports by iNewsToday

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