Tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and Google are the subjects of the latest high-profile lawsuits for privacy violations under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which prohibits the capture or storage of an individual’s biometric data without their express consent to do so.
The biometric data in question in these instances is faceprints obtained by the defendants from IBM’s database of 100 million pictures called ‘Diversity in Faces’. The database aims to aid the development of less biased facial recognition algorithms by ‘teaching’ them on a more diverse data package than what has been available up until recently.
The plaintiffs for these latest cases are Illinois residents Steven Vance and Tim Janecyk, who allege that Microsoft, Amazon and Google all obtained their facial geometry data from IBM’s database — which is derived from Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr — without their knowledge or consent.
Vance and Janecyk filed a similar BIPA suit against IBM earlier this year, with the results of that particular case still pending.
A number of lawsuits have been filed under BIPA over the past year, with a wide range of companies on the receiving end for alleged violations. Last month Facebook attempted to settle its suit for $550 million, however U.S. District Judge James Donato dismissed the settlement saying he required an explanation as to why it was so low considering the maximum fine under BIPA is $5,000 per infraction and the class-action case involved potentially millions of victims.
Google has faced a number of BIPA cases itself over the past several months, with one going in its favor when U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t suffer any concrete injury as a result of Google’s practices.
“Most people expose their faces to the general public every day, so one’s face is even more widely public than non-biometric information like a social security number,” Chang wrote in a summary of his judgement. “Indeed, we expose our faces to the public such that no additional intrusion into our privacy is required to obtain a likeness of it.”
This most recent case against Google was filed in a federal court in the Northern District of California, with the Amazon and Microsoft cases filed in the Western District of Washington.
A spokesperson for Microsoft commented that the company is reviewing the lawsuit against the company, saying, “We take privacy seriously and we are committed to ensuring our AI technology is developed and used responsibly.”
July 17, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis