Facebook facial recognition: class action suit gets court’s go ahead

Yes, yet another US court has reaffirmed, Facebook users can indeed sue the company over its use of facial technology.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday affirmed the district court’s certification of a class action suit – Patel v. Facebook – that a steady progression of courts has allowed to proceed since it was first filed in 2015.

Though a stream of courts has refused to let Facebook wiggle out of this lawsuit and boy oh boy, has it tried – this is the first decision of an American appellate court that directly addresses what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls the “unique privacy harms” of the ever-more ubiquitous facial recognition technology, that’s increasingly being foisted on the public without our knowledge or consent.

The lawsuit was initially filed by some Illinois residents under Illinois law, but the parties agreed to transfer the case to the California court.

What the suit claims: Facebook violated Illinois privacy laws by “secretly” amassing users’ biometric without getting consent from the plaintiffs, Nimesh Patel, Adam Pezen and Carlo Licata, collecting it and squirreling it away in what Facebook claims is the largest privately held of facial recognition data in the world.

Specifically, the suit claims that Facebook didn’t do any of the following:

  • Properly inform users that their biometric identifiers (face geometry) were being generated, collected or stored.
  • Properly inform them, in writing, what it planned to do with their biometrics and how long the company planned to collect, store and use the data.
  • Provide a publicly available retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the biometric identifiers of users who don’t opt out of “Tag Suggestions”.
  • Receive a written release from users to collect, capture, or otherwise obtain their biometric identifiers.
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