By the Blouin News Technology staff

Lawsuit calls biometric data into question

by in Media Tech.

Gorilla Face Recognition Software. (Source: Surian Soosay/flickr)

Gorilla Face Recognition Software. (Source: Surian Soosay/flickr)

A group of people from Illinois have charged Facebook with violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), and the lawsuit is moving forward after a judge ruled against Facebook’s motion to dismiss the suit.

The users claim that Facebook’s face recognition feature suggesting tags on photos unlawfully collects and stores biometric data.

Facebook was hoping to have the case dismissed on the grounds that users could not file a complaint under Illinois’ BIPA because they had agreed when signing their user agreements that California law would govern their disputes with Facebook, and that BIPA does not apply to “tag suggestions,” reports Reuters. But the California federal judge ruled in favor of the complainants, finding that the Illinois law applies. The parties have also agreed to transfer the case to California court.

This lawsuit is one to watch, namely because facial recognition technology is still in the nascent stages of use and applicability. The suit’s outcome could set the stage for the use of facial recognition tech moving forward. In this instance, the “faceprint” that Facebook creates for each user — data the company uses in its photo-tagging system to build a representation of a user’s face — is under fire, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how the court will rule. In Facebook’s favor are its data policy which users sign, and the option the company provides for users to opt out of having their face data collected.

The lawsuit could spur other companies that use facial recognition technology (like Google) to revise and tighten up their user agreements, and make it explicit how biometric data is collected and used.