Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Kristin Zimmerman

Facebook Must Face Class-Action Over 'Faceprints'

Facebook Must Face Class-Action Over 'Faceprints'

A federal judge in California has ruled that Facebook can be sued in a class-action lawsuit brought by users in IL who say the social network improperly used facial recognition technology on their uploaded photographs.

The decision by a U.S. district judge means the company could be sued by millions of USA users.

Not very long after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced Congress regarding Facebook's poor handling of users' data as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company has now been accused of illicitly obtaining users' biometric information through the use of facial recognition technology.

Judge Donato has ruled that the IL privacy act is clear and that Facebook collected a "wealth of data on its users, including self-reported residency and IP addresses".

Although many individuals may not have had enough tagged photos to generate a face template in Facebook's database, in January 2011 (i.e., before Facebook implemented tag suggestions for all users) the average user was tagged in 53 photos, far more than the 10 needed to generate a face template.

They are referring to Facebook's "tag suggestions" feature, which uses facial recognition to suggest which friends to tag in a photo. The judge said the potential damages could amount to billions of dollars.

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

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".

Facebook's immediate response was to have the case transferred to California, the state of its headquarters, as per its user agreement. Facebook switched the feature off in Europe in 2012 after an audit by Ireland's data watchdog.

"We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously", a Facebook rep said of the suit, which first popped up back in 2015.

The company is now trying to roll out facial recognition technology inside the European Union again, according to the Irish Times, but on an opt-in basis.

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