On Monday, the state of Texas filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook, for its alleged mass harvesting of facial recognition data of millions of users over the last decade.
As reported by CNN, the lawsuit was filed in the Harrison County District Court of Texas. The suit claims that Facebook failed to get consent from users before it began implementing a feature that allowed users to be automatically tagged when a photo of them was posted. The feature, which is now defunct, would even make recommendations for users to tag certain people by analyzing the faces in the photos.
This feature was shut down in November of 2021 after the company settled a similar lawsuit with the state of Illinois, to the tune of $650 million. As part of the settlement, Facebook announced that it would delete the data that this software had collected from over 600 million users.
The Texas lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton, claims that Facebook’s collection of facial recognition data was in violation of the state’s Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier (CUBI) Act, passed in 2009.
The suit alleges that the company violated the law billions of times, as it “secretly forced millions of Texans into a facial-recognition scheme without their informed consent. As a result, for the next ten years, tens of millions of Texans who appeared in media uploaded to Facebook unsuspectingly had records of their facial geometry captured by Facebook.” The feature even allegedly included the facial data of millions of non-users.
Despite Facebook’s prior announcement that the feature would be removed from Facebook, the lawsuit notes that the parent company “made no such commitment with respect to any of the other platforms or operations under its corporate umbrella, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Reality Labs, or its upcoming virtual-reality metaverse.” The lawsuit demands that the court impose penalties of $25,000 for each violation of the state biometric law, and another $10,000 for each violation of the state’s consumer protection law.
A spokesperson for Meta responded to the lawsuit by declaring that “these claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”