Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
IT | By Jonathon Greene

Facebook Ordered to Face Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition

Facebook Ordered to Face Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition

Facebook could owe billions of dollars for using facial recognition after a judge approved a pending lawsuit against the social network.

The decision comes days after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced intensive questioning by U.S. lawmakers over the company's collection and use of user data.

The plaintiffs are three Illinois Facebook users who sued under a state law that says a private entity such as Facebook can't collect and store a person's biometric facial information without their written consent. Damages could be steep - a fact that wasn't lost on the judge, who was unsympathetic to Facebook's arguments for limiting its legal exposure. Facebook argued that the lawsuit should be pursued by individuals and not as a class-action as "damages could amount to billions of dollars", the company also argued that each user could be "aggrieved" differently and should be forced to prove that they were negatively affected by Facebook's collection of the data. Among others, the company says its photo-tagging feature isn't covered by the IL law, because Facebook doesn't have servers in IL.

Facebook got the case moved from IL to San Francisco, where Judge James Donato affirmed that a class-action lawsuit was the best path to a solution in this regard. Violations of BIPA typically incur a fine of between $1,000 to $5,000.

In a successful class action suit, any person in that group could be entitled to compensation.

But, unlike the Cambridge Analytica shitshow, this isn't a question of confidentiality; District Judge James Donato ruled in San Francisco federal court that a class action is the most efficient way to resolve this dispute.

A spokesperson, however, told Reuters that "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously".

The feature is not available to users in most countries, including the United Kingdom - and can be turned off in settings for US users.

The company has altered the controversial feature in the time since it was first rolled out to users back in 2011 by adding a more direct notification alerting users to the facial recognition features.

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