The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled regarding a 2015 class action filed against Facebook for their use of facial recognition on unwilling subjects.
The lawsuit dates back to 2015 when three Facebook users living in the state claimed the tech giant had violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to obtain consent when collecting their biometric information.
Since 2010, Facebook has been using its own facial-recognition technology for photo-tagging purposes. It works by generating a digital template from your photos, so that the company can detect whenever your face appears in other images posted across the social network.
The court ruled in favor of the class action and against Facebook, who argued each action must be brought individually rather than in a class action. Plaintiffs in the suit claim they never authorized Facebook to create a digital likeness of their face to use in their recognition software. Facebook claims there was no real “injury” to the plaintiffs.
Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote: “We conclude that the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.” Civil liberties groups are concerned that facial recognition will lead to mass surveillance. Aren’t we already there?
“The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale,” said Nathan Freed Wessle, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Both corporations and the government are now on notice that this technology poses unique risks to people’s privacy and safety.”
The potential payout for Facebook could be enormous. The Illinois bio-metric privacy law provides “for damages of $1,000 for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation.” Estimates put the number of users potentially in the class at upwards 7 million people. Facebook says it plans to appeal the decision.
Facebook recently was fined $5 billion for allowing a third party to access user data.
(Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)