Facebook Might Lose Trial Involving Facial Recognition Program

"facial recognition"

Facebook’s facial recognition program

With the advent of technology, companies seem to get in more and more trouble with the law, whether they are sued by citizens or the state. And oftentimes they find themselves in courtroom battles against the most experienced lawyers the other party can find. And when that party is the state, they have far bigger chances of actually winning the lawsuit.

You might remember from a few days back how Apple lost the right to the “iPhone” name in China and how a leather goods company can now legally mark their wallets, purses, passport holder, etc. with the word “IPHONE”. It is an amusing story which got plenty of coverage all over the internet.

Now, a social media platform is also in a pickle, as Facebook might lose trial involving facial recognition program. The company had been attempting to get the lawsuit thrown out, as the facial recognition software policies were included on the website, but it looks like they go against Illinois law.

So, the judge decided to keep the trial going and to allow the company to make its case. This is what U.S. District Judge James Donato had to say about the situation:

The statute is an informed consent privacy law addressing the collection, retention and use of personal biometric identifiers and information at a time when biometric technology is just beginning to be broadly deployed. Trying to cabin this purpose within a specific in-person data collection technique has no support in the words and structure of the statute, and is antithetical to its broad purpose of protecting privacy in the face of emerging biometric technology.

Back in 2008, Illinois passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to get consent from their users before storing or collecting biometric data. The “faceprints” taken by Facebook to tag users in photographs uploaded by their friends are included in the Privacy Act.

The complaint against the social media giant is pretty straight-forward – the plaintiffs say that they never gave permission for Facebook to use their faces as biometric identifiers. Even if the policy was included in the Terms of Service agreement, it still goes against the Privacy Act.

As much as Facebook tried to get the case thrown out of court, resorting to the fact that people can opt out of their terms of service at any time, or that the law shouldn’t apply since the so-called faceprint was taken from photos willingly uploaded, it didn’t work; so, the case is now going to trial.

Image source: Wikimedia

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