Judge: Facebook lawsuit over facial recognition may proceed

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies on Capitol Hill on April 11. Monday, a federal judge in California ruled a lawsuit against the company for possibly violating an Illinois state law may proceed. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

By Ray Downs – UPI

 A federal judge on Monday said Facebook can face a potential multi-billion-dollar class-action lawsuit from a group of Illinois users, who say the company violated a state law that restricts facial recognition software.

U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco made the ruling after Facebook requested the case be heard on the company’s home turf.

The lawsuit, which was first filed in 2015, says Facebook broke the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008, which says a company must obtain written permission before scanning and storing one’s biometrics, including the type of face-scanning technology Facebook uses to tag users in photos.

Facebook could face fines of $1,000 to $5,000 for each time it used a person’s biometrics without permission.

The lawsuit has three plaintiffs, but class-action status could potentially include millions of Illinois users.

“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,” said Shawn Williams, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, according to Bloomberg.

This isn’t the only lawsuit against Facebook coming out of Illinois.

Last month, Cook County sued Facebook and Cambridge Analytica — the data firm at the center of a controversy regarding privacy and data collection — for violating an Illinois anti-fraud law when it gave users’ data to third parties without permission.

“[Facebook[ sought to keep developers building on its platform and provide companies with all the tools they need to influence and manipulate user behavior,” the suit says, according to the Chicago Tribune. “That’s because Facebook is not a social media company; it is the largest data mining operation in existence.”