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Facebook will have to face a massive lawsuit over facial recognition

Published Apr 17th, 2018 11:27PM EDT
Facebook Facial Recognition
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Remember that Facebook feature that lets you tag friends in photos with the help of facial recognition? Well, it might be illegal for Facebook to do that — at least that’s what a lawsuit in Illinois alleges. And a US federal judge just ruled that Facebook has to face the class action.

In a worst-case scenario for Facebook, the company would have to pay billions in damages for this new type of user privacy breach.

US District Judge James Donato ruled on Monday in San Francisco federal court that a class action is the most efficient way to resolve the matter, Reuters reports.

A trio of Facebook users sued the company in 2015, alleging the company is violating an Illinois state law — the Biometric Information Privacy Act — that covers the privacy of biometric data.

In other words, you have to be based in Illinois to join the class action, and Facebook must have stored your facial data at some point after June 7th, 2011, when Facebook rolled out the “Tag Suggestion” feature.

“Facebook seems to believe … statutory damages could amount to billions of dollars,” Donato wrote in his order, according to Business Insider.

The suit is asking for damages of up to $5,000 for every time a person’s image was used without permission.

Facebook, naturally, says the suit is without merit. “We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously,” the company said.

The company has been in defense mode for a few weeks now when it comes to user data and privacy, following the Cambridge Analytica reports.

Interestingly, Facebook had to switch off the feature for European users in 2012, so there’s that. Facebook is now looking to reintroduce facial recognition in the EU, on an opt-in basis.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.