An Illinois resident has voluntarily withdrawn his facial recognition lawsuit against the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. Plaintiff James Allen had alleged that the team violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) when it captured and stored his facial biometrics without his consent using security cameras during a game at the United Center on December 18, 2018.
The plaintiff filed his initial complaint in Cook County in March of 2020, and had been hoping to drum up support for a larger class action lawsuit. In that regard, Allen argued that anyone who attended a game between October 15, 2014, and his game in 2018 may have been captured on the Blackhawks cameras. The Blackhawks denied any wrongdoing, citing language on its tickets that absolves the team from legal action stemming from events at the United Center, and arguing that the two years between the game and Allen’s initial filing limited the scope of the affected class due to a two-year limitations period.
It’s ultimately unclear if those arguments were compelling enough on their own to bring the lawsuit to a conclusion, or even if the Blackhawks did, in fact, collect Allen’s biometric data (the team denied having done so in an earlier response). A Blackhawks spokesperson indicated that Allen withdrew his complaint in response to a legal document that was filed on August 23, 2021, but declined to offer any details about what information that document might have contained. The two sides have been battling over discovery in the case for much of the past year.
On that front, Allen had argued that the Blackhawks did not notify him about their use of facial recognition technology, or convey how that information would be stored and used. The BIPA law requires businesses to obtain express written consent before collecting anyone’s biometric information, and the Blackhawk’s ticket language may or may not meet that legal standard.
Whatever the case, the Blackhawks organization is one of the few that has emerged from a BIPA lawsuit relatively unscathed. TikTok and Walmart have settled BIPA suits for $92 million and $10 million, respectively, while Facebook reached a landmark $650 million settlement back in the summer of 2020.
September 8, 2021 – by Eric Weiss