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Facebook biometric trial allowed to proceed

Posted On: May. 15, 2018 12:54 PM CST

Facebook biometric trial allowed to proceed

A U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco ruled Monday that class action litigation against Facebook Inc. charging it with violating the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act with its practice of tagging people on its photos can proceed to a July trial.

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.

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 the 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 complaint says when a user uploads a photograph, Facebook’s Tag Suggestions compares the faces of any individual in that photograph to the face templates in the Facebook data, and if there is a match, it suggests the user “tag” the person in the photograph with the appropriate name.

In Monday’s ruling, Judge James Donato held that the “voluminous submissions” in the case “underscore the multitude of fact disputes that bar judgment as a matter of law for either side.”

“Consequently, all of the summary judgment motions are denied, and the trial set for July 9, 2018, will go forward,” said Judge Donato in his ruling on the case.

“Plaintiffs’ case turns in large measure on whether Facebook collects and stores scans of face geometry,” said the ruling. “While the parties have no serious disagreement about the literal text of Facebook’s source code, they offer strongly conflicting interpretations of how the software processes human faces.

“Plaintffs say the technology necessarily collects scans of face geometry because it uses human facial regions to process, characterize, and ultimately recognize face images.

“Facebook disagrees and says the technology has no express dependency on human facial features at all…This is a quintessential dispute of fact for the jury to decide.”

Judge Donato stressed in his ruling that plaintiffs do not need to show an “‘actual’ injury beyond the invasion of the privacy rights afforded” by the Illinois law to prevail.

“The Court expressly rejected that contention in considerable detail in the class certification order and the order finding Article III standing to sue,” said Monday’s ruling.