Facebook to Face Angry Illinoisans Over Facial Recognition Tech

Posted April 18, 2018

In a blow to Facebook, a federal judge has ruled that the company must face a class-action lawsuit for allegedly violating IL privacy law by compiling a database of faceprints.

The decision comes days after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced intensive questioning by U.S. lawmakers over the company's collection and use of user data. This could result in Facebook paying out billions of dollars.

At the heart of the issue is a 2008 state regulation known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits the collection or use of biometric data without precise public disclosure.

They are referring to Facebook's "tag suggestions" feature, which uses facial recognition to suggest which friends to tag in a photo. Judge Donato put the extent of the damages into perspective, "Facebook seems to believe statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars".

In the case before Donato, he has ruled that the IL law is clear: Facebook has collected a "wealth of data on its users, including self-reported residency and IP addresses".

On Monday, Judge Donato ruled to certify a class of Facebook users - a key legal hurdle for a class action suit.

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Under BIPA, Facebook could be fined between $1000 and $5000 for every occasion that a person's image was used without their consent.

Donato previously rejected Facebook's argument that the case had to be dismissed because the attempt to enforce IL law runs afoul of its user agreement that requires disputes to be resolved under the laws of California, where it's based.

Facebook said the case had no merit and it would fight it vigorously. And that paves the way for the class action lawsuit to proceed.

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

Like many features which bear privacy implications, the tag suggestion is enabled by default-a move that upset some watchdogs, who believe any function providing access to data should be opt-in.

The company has altered the controversial feature in the time since it was first rolled out to users back in 2011 by adding a more direct notification alerting users to the facial recognition features.

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