Amazon is headed back to court in Illinois. A District Judge in Chicago has opted not to throw out a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges that the tech giant illegally gathered biometric data with its COVID-19 screening program for employees.
Plaintiff William Naughton argues that Amazon violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which bars companies from collecting biometric data without consent. Amazon used thermal cameras to take the temperatures of employees as they entered warehouses during the pandemic, as part of a wellness check that was intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, Naughton alleges that Amazon also used those cameras to scan people’s faces, and that the company did not provide people with sufficient information about how that data would be used and stored.
For its part, Amazon countered that Naughton did not establish that there was “active” intent behind the data collection program, which is a requirement for BIPA lawsuits. Judge Mary Rowland disagreed with that assessment, at least for the time being. Amazon was hoping to get the case thrown out entirely, but Rowland determined that Naughton’s claims were compelling enough to move on to the next stage of the legal process.
Naughton is a former Amazon warehouse employee. The case is not yet complete, so Amazon could be cleared of wrongdoing (or face a settlement) at some point in the future.
Of course, this is not the first time that Amazon has had to face a BIPA lawsuit. Amazon Web Services was the subject of a BIPA complaint in 2019, and Amazon itself was one of three tech companies that was sued for using an IBM facial recognition database in 2020. In 2021, Amazon started requiring its delivery drivers to consent to in-car biometric data collection practices.
January 4, 2022 – by Eric Weiss