Facebook may face billions of dollars of fines after it was announced that the company must face a class action lawsuit.
The lawsuit apparently states that Facebook’s facial recognition features violate Illinois law by storing personal biometric data without user’s consent.
The lawsuit includes the platform’s Tag Suggestions tool, which identifies users in uploaded photos and suggests who they could be to tag.
According to the suit: “Facebook collects and stores their biometric data without prior notice or consent in violation of their privacy rights.”
Illnois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) requires explicit consent before companies can collect biometric data. For example, facial recognition profiles and fingerprints fall under the legislation.
The fines may be between $1,000 and $5,000 for each time someone’s image is used without permission.
In the court order, Judge James Donato wrote: “A class action is clearly superior to individual proceedings here. While not trivial, BIPA’s statutory damages are not enough to incentivize individual plaintiffs given the high costs of pursuing discovery on Facebook’s software and code base and Facebook’s willingness to litigate the case…Facebook seems to believe that a class action is not superior because statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars.”
The Tag Suggestion feature works as the software tries to detect faces in any uploaded photos and once detected, Facebook will then make a “face signature”. This is a series of numbers which “represents a particular image of a face” based on a photo.
It also includes a “face template” database which is used to search face signatures for a match. If it matches, Facebook will then suggest a tag.
A lawyer for Facebook users, Shawn Williams, told Bloomberg: “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.”
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