A major biometrics lawsuit could soon be thrown out, if a federal judge in Illinois accepts Shutterfly’s argument. The online photo-sharing company is asking that the suit be dismissed as its collection of biometric data clearly does not violate state law.
Of course, the judge could disagree. Illinois law essentially requires companies to obtain written consent from individuals before collecting their biometric data, and the lawsuit originates from Shutterfly’s automatic tagging of the face of a man who did not ever sign up to use the service; the tagging was done in an image on the account of a friend of the claimant’s.
Shutterfly is looking to get the case tossed out of court on a technicality, asserting that the state’s biometric law specifically indicates that photographs are not to be considered sources of biometric data. While that may be the product of legislators’ confusion over what exactly biometric data is, Shutterfly also appeals to the substance of the law, noting that it was drafted mostly to help regulate data security for more sensitive digital operations such as financial transfers, and not for the relatively innocuous practice of tagging friends in photos.
Various parties will likely be watching this case closely. Facebook is facing a similar lawsuit while business and other industry interests seek to find voluntary standards for biometric data collection, and government legislators are increasingly concerned about biometric data collection as well. The stakes are high for a case about photo tagging.
August 5, 2015 – by Alex Perala