Facebook has filed a motion to have a potential class action lawsuit against the company dismissed. The lawsuit was filed over the company’s collection and storage of individuals’ facial biometric data.
The company pursues these biometric activities in the service of its ‘tag suggestions’ feature, which is designed to automatically identify the faces of people in photos uploaded by users to the social networking site. Plaintiffs argue that the practice violates their privacy rights, specifically with respect to the Illinois Biometrics Information Privacy Act.
In late summer, Facebook shrewdly moved to have the case transferred to California, where its headquarters are located, arguing that the terms of its user agreement mandate that cases be handled in that state. Now, the company is arguing that since its terms of service revolve around California law, Illinois’ biometrics regulations shouldn’t apply in the case.
It’s clever maneuvering, but Facebook’s argument does have some more substance beyond that branch; the company also asserts that its practices don’t even violate Illinois law, since BIPA explicitly permits the collection of biometric data from ‘photographs’.
Theoretically, Facebook will get a friendlier hearing from the state home to Silicon Valley. In any case, a lot of interested parties will be keen to see how this plays out, given that it could be a highly symbolic conflict in a growing trend of biometric technologies running into privacy concerns.
October 19, 2015 – by Alex Perala