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Trial over Facebook tagging to proceed

Trial over Facebook tagging to proceed

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to stay a scheduled July trial against Facebook Inc. on the issue of whether it violates the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act with its practice of tagging people on its photos.

Facebook had requested the stay pending a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a ruling by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco certifying a class for trial. The trial is scheduled for July 9.

Plaintiffs charge in In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, which was originally filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago in 2015, that Facebook violated Illinois law when, beginning in 2010, it began implementing its “tag suggestion” feature which, it said, uses sophisticated facial recognition software to automatically match pictures with names.

The use of biometric data has raised privacy issues and led to numerous lawsuits. The Illinois act is the only legislation to date that permits a private right of action over its use.

“As an initial matter, Facebook misapprehends the governing standards for a           stay,” said the order by U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco.

“Facebook departs from these standards by focusing almost exclusively on the merits of the Court’s class certification decision and making virtually no showing at all on the critical element of irreparable harm.

“Its main arguments about harm are that a trial might be expensive, and sending notice to the class in advance of the trial will embarrass it and inflict ‘reputational’ injury. Neither point comes close to warranting a stay,” said the ruling.

“Facebook’s concerns about the expense of trial are particularly thin … Every party going to trial faces the same cost issue Facebook raises, albeit typically without Facebooks’ deep financial resources, and Facebook offers no reason why it should be treated differently and afforded a stay,” said the ruling.

“The case is ripe for trial, and Facebook’s last-minute request to derail that is denied,” said Judge Donato.

One of the plaintiff attorneys in the case, Boca Raton, Florida-based partner Paul Geller of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd L.L.P., said in a statement, “Facebook publicly says it ‘intends to defend the case vigorously’ yet it continues to try to avoid doing just that by seeking stays and delays. From our perspective, July 9 can’t come soon enough.”

A Facebook spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.


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