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Biometric suit against vending machine firm can proceed


A federal district court ruled that a putative class-action lawsuit alleging violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act can proceed, rejecting the defendant’s argument the law violated the state’s constitution.

In May, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in the case, Christine Bryant et al. v. Compass Group USA, Inc., that the invasion of personal rights alleged in the lawsuit was an injury that was “both concrete and particularized” and therefore could be heard in federal court.

The lawsuit concerns a Smart Market vending machine owned and operated by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Compass Group USA Inc. that did not accept cash, requiring users to establish an account using their fingerprints instead.

On remand to U.S. District Court in Chicago, Compass’ arguments included that the BIPA constitutes “special legislation” that is in violation of Illinois’ constitution because it excludes financial institutions, government agencies and government contractors from its coverage.

“The General  Assembly’s decision to exclude government agencies and financial institutions was rationally related to BIPA’s legitimate government interest in protecting Illinois residents’ privacy,” Sunday’s ruling said.

“Those two categories of institutions already had privacy safeguards in place so imposing additional obligations to them would have been minimally efficacious. Accordingly, BIPA is not unconstitutional special legislation.”

The court also disagreed with Compass that filing a claim under BIPA should have a one-year statute of limitation, which would have meant Ms. Bryant’s case was time-barred. 

“BIPA itself does not contain a limitations period,” the ruling said. Illinois law “is clear that civil actions for which no limitations period is specified are subject to a five-year limitations period … so Bryant’s claims are timely,” the ruling said.

The lawsuit also charged that Compass violated BIPA by possessing Ms. Bryant’s biometric information and failing to destroy it once the purpose for collecting it was complete. 

The court said that because Ms. Bryant’s complaint is silent as to whether Compass had any retention and destruction guidelines in place it fails to state a claim and dismissed the charge.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

In November, a federal district court judge in Illinois refused to dismiss putative class-action litigation filed against Apple Inc. under BIPA in connection with its photo app’s alleged use of biometric information.