Facebook's facial recognition tech could cost it billions of dollars in fines

Facebook's facial recognition tech could cost it billions of dollars in fines

Facebook must face a class action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology, a California judge has ruled. This could result in Facebook paying out billions of dollars. "Ruling judge James Donato wrote that Facebook could have to cough up billions of dollars" worth of statutory damages.

Users have accused Facebook of violating an IL privacy law by using facial recognition on photos without explicit user consent. The lawsuit states that this breaches state laws of IL.

They are referring to Facebook's "tag suggestions" feature, which uses facial recognition to suggest which friends to tag in a photo.

"We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously", Facebook responded. Alphabet's cloud-based Google Photos service uses similar technology and Google faces a lawsuit in Chicago like the one against Facebook in San Francisco federal court.

Facebook users sued in 2015, alleging violations of an IL state law about the privacy of biometric information. Among others, the company says its photo-tagging feature isn't covered by the IL law, because Facebook doesn't have servers in IL.

Due to privacy regulations, the feature is not available in Europe and Canada. Judge Donato ruled that "substantial damages are not a reason to decline class certification".

Facebook's facial recognition tech could cost it billions of dollars in fines
Facebook's facial recognition tech could cost it billions of dollars in fines

This same judge has now certified a class of Facebook users who can be represented in the lawsuit, asserting that any IL users on whom Facebook's facial recognition technology was used since the "tag suggestions" feature was introduced in 2011 will be entitled to compensation if Facebook loses the class action suit.

U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled that the lawsuit can proceed as a class action representing potentially millions of Facebook users in IL. The ruling comes less than a week after CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent hours testifying before Congress about the company's ongoing Cambridge Analytica fiasco and other privacy issues.

The judge is based in San Francisco where the case had been moved at Facebook's request.

The ruling, issued Monday, authorizes a class of "Facebook users located in IL for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011".

Donato has ruled that the IL law is clear: Facebook has collected a "wealth of data on its users, including self-reported residency and IP addresses".

Donato previously rejected Facebook's argument that the case had to be dismissed because the attempt to enforce IL law runs afoul of its user agreement that requires disputes to be resolved under the laws of California, where it's based.

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