If you’ve used Facebook at all in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that every time you post a photo with one of your friends, Facebook automatically suggests you tag that person. While that might seem innocent enough, the facial recognition technology Facebook uses to accomplish that is highly controversial and possibly illegal.
Facial recognition technology is a relatively recent development and it didn’t take long for it to become controversial. With the abundance of cameras all around us, facial recognition technology allows owners of the technology to find us just about everywhere we go, which is why Facebook is now facing a class action consumer lawsuit on behalf of millions of Illinois users.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook used its facial recognition technology to gather and store biometric data on its users without their consent, which violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008. Facebook tried to have the class action dismissed and to force each plaintiff to sue them individually, knowing the costs of filing the lawsuit would prohibit most, if not all the plaintiffs from pursuing legal action.
But the court said the class action was the proper format for this particular lawsuit. Facebook appealed that decision, and the appellate court recently upheld the lower court’s ruling, allowing the class action to proceed as is.
Facebook has said it will review the ruling further, which might mean they’re considering appealing the decision again. Given the billions of dollars that could be at stake here, it might be worthwhile for the company to pursue every opportunity to get this dismissed.
The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act provides for fines of $1,000 to $5,000 for each time a picture of an individual is used without their consent. Since the class action consumer lawsuit involves millions of potential plaintiffs, multiplied by the number of times each of their images was allegedly used without their consent, Facebook could be facing a consumer lawsuit worth billions of dollars.
Facebook – which has been under fire for some time from activists, regulators, and legislators – argued that its users have the ability to opt-out of the facial recognition program at any time. Whether that argument will stand up in court remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that Google succeeded in getting similar claims against it dismissed as recently as last December.
The class-action lawsuit against Facebook was filed in 2015 over allegations that the social media giant was secretly using its huge influence to collect the largest privately held database of biometric data. Meanwhile, the class action of Facebook users claims they never gave Facebook permission to use their images.
Facebook’s argument that users could opt-out of the program at any time might not hold up if the plaintiffs can prove that Facebook never made it clear that their images were being used. Hiding the choice to opt-out in users’ profile settings might not count for much if they never actively notified users that Facebook would be using their images, but only time will tell how the courts will rule in this case, now that the class action has twice been assured it is valid and can proceed as a class action.
Our Chicago, Illinois business and class action defense law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago class action lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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