Illinois Supreme Court Weighs Whether to ‘Defang’ Biometrics Law

“Essentially, the court will decide whether the law should concern the unauthorized collection of biometric data alone, or whether alleged victims of malfeasance should have to prove that they have actually been somehow injured or wronged through the collection of such data.”

Illinois Supreme Court Weighs Whether to 'Defang' Biometrics LawThe Illinois Supreme Court is poised to make a major ruling on how the state’s biometric privacy act can be used, and privacy and civil rights advocates are urging the court to make sure the law is as strong as possible.

Implemented back in 2008, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, made Illinois one of just a few US states to establish legal rules over how biometric data can be collected, requiring companies to obtain explicit consent from individuals before acquiring such data. In recent years the law has tied up a number of companies including tech giants like Facebook and Google in legal trouble as the use of tools like facial recognition has become more and more prominent.

Now, the Illinois Supreme Court will decide whether to “defang” the law, in the words of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a case in which an amusement park had collected an adolescent’s thumbprint biometrics without explicit consent. Essentially, the court will decide whether the law should concern the unauthorized collection of biometric data alone, or whether alleged victims of malfeasance should have to prove that they have actually been somehow injured or wronged through the collection of such data.

The EFF, together with the ACLU, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, and other organizations, has filed an amicus curiae brief – an offering of information to the court by parties not involved in a case – urging it to make sure that the law prevents any unauthorized collection of biometric data, regardless of injury. For the EFF, the unauthorized collection of biometric data is part of a larger, “growing menace to our privacy” in the form of biometric surveillance; and indeed, the lawsuit arrives at a time of heightened controversy over biometric surveillance, with privacy rights groups challenging government programs in the US and the UK, and the likes of Amazon seeing revolt from its own employees and shareholders over its sale of biometric surveillance technology to government agencies.

It isn’t clear whether those controversies will have any effect on the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, but in any case it’s going to be a momentous one in the broader discourse over biometric rights.

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

July 6, 2018 – by Alex Perala